MANILA – Firebrand President Rodrigo Duterte has said he wants same-sex marriage legalized in the Philippines, a move that would bring him into conflict with the dominant Roman Catholic Church.
Duterte, a longtime critic of the church which counts about 80 percent of Filipinos as followers, made the remarks in a speech before the LGBT community in his southern home city of Davao late Sunday.
“I want same-sex marriage. The problem is we’ll have to change the law. But we can change the law,” he said to wide applause.
“The law says marriage is a union between a man and a woman. I don’t have any problems making it marrying a man, marrying a woman or whatever is the predilection of the human being,” he added.
Divorce, abortion and same-sex marriage are still illegal in the Philippines due largely to the influence of the Catholic Church.
But Duterte, who took office in mid-2016, has actively attacked the church, accusing the clergy of sexual abuses and hypocrisy.
The church in turn has been one of the most outspoken critics of Duterte, particularly his human rights record. Thousands of people have been killed by police under the president’s centerpiece “war on drugs” policy.
Duterte, whose allies control both houses of Congress, did not specify how same-sex marriage would be legalized.
“Whatever makes you happy, I will give it to you. Why would I stop it? Why impose a morality that is no longer working and almost passe?” he said.
Naomi Fontanos, executive director of Ganda Filipinas, a transgender activist group, said she welcomed the president’s remarks but added that “we hope it’s not just an exercise in tokenism.”
“We hope that the president will really commit to the human rights and social justice for all, not just of the LGBTIQ community,” she added.
Duterte has a history of sexist remarks, boasting about his womanizing and joking about rape. But he has also had allies in the gay and lesbian community for many years.