Sen. Robin Padilla just filed Senate Bill No. 449 or the Civil Unions Act. If passed, the bill will “institutionalize the civil unions of same sex couples in the country,” writes Inquirer.net.
This isn’t clickbait nor is it unintentional. His explanatory note for the bill specifically talks about same-sex couples needing their relationships to be legally recognized and given the same rights as married couples.
“All States are called upon to take all necessary legislative, administrative, and other measures to ensure that any entitlement, privilege, obligation or benefit enjoyed by different-sex or married couples should likewise be available to same sex couples,” his explanatory note reads.
“The State shall recognize the need to protect its citizens who are in a relationship with the same sex, accord the same rights and obligations similar to [married] couples, and ensure that they are not discriminated [against],” it later states in its policy declaration.
Truth be told, we weren’t expecting this from Padilla. Him becoming senator and using his platform to push for gay marriage—er, civil unions—wasn’t exactly on our bingo cards. With this and his proposed divorce bill now under his belt, he has become unlikely allies with the likes of Sen. Risa Hontiveros.
Why do we need this?
Let’s be clear. The reason why we want same-sex marriage (or civil unions) isn’t just for the name alone, or to trample on the sanctity of a different-sex couple’s marriage. We want it for the rights that we currently do not have. For example, currently, you legally cannot adopt as a queer couple. This doesn’t mean that queer couples can’t raise a child together. What queer couples often do is have one partner do a solo adoption. This does mean that only one parent is legally recognized and the other is not.
Another is hospital visitation rights. Oftentimes, queer people are shut out from visiting their partner in the hospital. This is especially true for long-term couples who have built their lives together without their families’ approval. There are so many horror stories of elderly queer people who aren’t even allowed to see their partner before they pass.
There’s also intestate succession. If your partner passes before they make a will, you can also be shut out from inheritance. This could mean, for example, that if the home you shared is in their name, you may lose that home.
What are civil unions, exactly?
A civil union is different from marriage, but it’s hard to spell out how. It’s a matter of “semantics,” Geraldine Roman said in 2016, but that’s not exactly accurate.
This is because the difference between a civil union and a marriage varies from country to country. In some countries, different rights are afforded to couples with a civil union and those who are married. A civil union may allow partners to legally adopt a child together, and it may not depending on where you are.
In countries like Brazil, civil unions had already been in place for different-sex couples when these partnerships were opened up to same-sex couples. In others, civil unions were created specifically for same-sex couples—with some countries only granting civil unions for these couples.
A frequent criticism of civil unions is that it’s a marriage in all but the name—so why not make it a same-sex marriage instead? Another is that, especially in areas where civil unions don’t grant the same rights afforded to married couples, it in essence treats these partnerships as less important.
Crucially, civil unions are not recognized here yet, not even for straight couples. In effect, the bill will create this new form of partnership. Of course, this is not the only bill pushing for civil unions, and there are a few big differences between each.
In Padilla’s version, civil unions are specifically for same-sex couples and allows them rights given to married different-sex couples. “All benefits and protections as are granted to spouses in a marriage under existing laws, administrative orders, court rulings, or those derived as a matter of public policy, or any other source of civil law,” the segment on benefits and protections reads.
Among the protections it points out in particular are adoption, spousal support, hospital and detention facilities visitation rights, tax benefits, intestate succession, and involvement in the decision-making for burial arrangements.
For the dissolution of a civil union, Padilla’s proposal will follow the current means under the Family Code: “legal separation, annulment and declaration of nullity of marriages.”
Now, for House Bill No. 1357, the civil partnership act by Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy, the difference is that it allows civil partnerships for all couples regardless of sex. It lists down mostly the same benefits and protections, but the dissolution is different. Whereas Padilla’s civil unions will have to go through the same process of legal separation and annulments under the Family Code, Herrera-Dy lists down a different process for its dissolution—as well as an expanded list of grounds for separation. For example, it allows irreconcilable differences as a reason for the dissolution—which isn’t something that our current marriage laws allow. With divorce still not being legal, this version of civil partnership would be a good option even for straight couples.
Ultimately, if we truly are pushing for equality, what we would want is marriage, plain and simple, a same-sex marriage that is a marriage, without any reservations. But this is a step in the right direction.