MANILA— Transgender lawmaker Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman said Friday Senate President Vicente Sotto III seemed to be "more popish than the Pope" when he said same-sex unions are "tolerated but not in the legal sense" even after the Pontiff's comment.
Pope Francis was quoted this week as saying that homosexuals have a right to be in a family and should be protected by civil union laws.
Sotto, when asked if senators would reconsider the passage of the Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity or Expression (SOGIE) bill after the Pope's remark, said: "I doubt it."
"Same-sex union is already being practiced here and there is nothing we can do about it. It's just tolerated but not in the legal sense. We should leave it at that," he told reporters.
Roman, the first transgender lawmaker in the country, said legislators should not delve into the religious aspect of the Pope's words, but rather into its "legal and human rights" aspects.
"What strikes me the most with regard to the statement of Senate President Tito Sotto is that it seems that he is more popish than the Pope. Kailangan medyo umasenso naman tayo, mag-progress naman tayo (We should improve, progress). We should not be stuck in the middle ages," she told ANC's Headstart.
There are currently two pending bills on civil partnerships, said Roman. She believes these have a good chance of being approved as both distinguish between legal unions and marriage.
"The term marriage is quite controversial and it seems the different religious group want a monopoly of that term. Let them keep that term. What we are interested in is legal protection as provided through these legislative measures," she said.
She added the bill does not only provide legal rights to LGBT couples but also to heterosexuals who do not believe in the institution of marriage but have a "stable relationship."
"Not everyone believes in the institution of marriage… We have to provide these citizens equal protection under the law. This is basically a constitutional mandate," she said.
In 2017, the House of Representatives passed on final reading the SOGIE bill, which will disallow discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. But the 17th Congress closed without the Senate passing a similar proposed legislation.
Roman believes the measure will have a good chance of passing again in the House of Representatives under House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco who, as she noted, signed as co-author of the bill in the 17th Congress.
"I think the Senate should take hint from the Lower House. The representatives of the so many districts in our country actually represent also the voice of their constituents. I feel that the Senate should be more tolerant rather than adopting a very radical and fundamentalist position," she said.