There’s no place like a queer home: Can same-sex couples own property in PH?

This June, people annually come together to celebrate Pride Month, a commemoration honoring the LGBTQ+ community and the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, the latter being the culmination of the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States.

Now, as Pride Month enters its 54th year, a month-long celebration will ensue with a plethora of live events around the world, including our very own Metro Manila Pride March and Festival this June 24 in Makati City.

However, celebrating Pride Month is not just about attending blissful and colorful occasions, but also learning about why this celebration came about and engaging in discourse and conversation about equal rights and protection for the LGBTQ+ community.

With local legislations regarding the LGBTQ+ community, such as the Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression (SOGIE) Equality Bill, still up for debates even today, this year’s Pride Month is a perfect time for members and allies to make their voices heard so that people in power can see how important these legislations are for LGBTQ+ rights and protection. 

For this article, we delve into a brief history of LGBTQ+ property rights in the Philippines, specifically what has been done regarding such.

At present, there are no laws regarding same-sex couples and property ownership in the country.  Because of this, the Family Code, which includes four types of Property Regimes for heterosexual couples, cannot be applied to them just yet.

However, some moves regarding same-sex couples and property ownership have been made by the national government. But, will we see these progress in the near future?

Government actions

The first move was made last October 2013 when then-Albay Representative Edcel “Grex” Lagman Jr. filed House Bill No. 3719, otherwise known as the Same Sex Property Relations Act, which allows same-sex couples who live together enjoy the protection of property rights, just like heterosexual couples.

The bill would help same-sex partnerships by allowing them to decide whether to co-own the properties they acquire while living together, or to maintain exclusive ownership separately.

“In the Philippines, homosexual behavior is interwoven in historical narrative and is now brought to the forefront by popular media. As more and more of our countrymen come out with such relationships and choose to cohabitate, it is incumbent upon us legislators to acknowledge and equate them to heterosexual couples,” Lagman said in a statement.

Moreover, the bill said live-in same-sex couples can register their partnership with the local Civil Registrar with their registration including their agreement on property arrangements.

The bill, however, has not passed the committee level.

In October 2017, then-House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, along with other legislators, filed House Bill 6595 or the Civil Partnership Act which aims same-sex partnerships be granted the same rights as heterosexual partnerships.

Property rights are also included in the bill, including ownership, division, and maintenance. Moreover, a provision in the bill explicitly states that property sellers cannot refuse to sell real property to any person in a civil partnership.

In recent times, Senator Imee Marcos, in celebration of World Human Rights Day, refiled Senate Bill No. 1523 last December 2022 which seeks to institutionalize property rights and legal protection for the LGBTQ+ community.

The bill, otherwise known as the Instituting a Property Regime for Same Sex Partners Bill, shall ensure each partner a fair share of properties when their partner dies, becomes disabled, or when a relationship is ended by mutual agreement or abandonment.

“The acquisition, ownership, and use of property is a guaranteed right of all citizens, but same-sex couples are not adequately protected by existing laws,” Marcos said in a statement.

The senator filed the same bill in the 18th Congress. However, it did not pass committee level.

What we can do

With bills about LGBTQ+ property rights, among other civil liberties, still up in the air, this year’s Pride Month is the perfect time to join together and continue making your voices heard for our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters.

Although the recent committee approval of the SOGIE equality bill last May 23 puts us one step closer into putting discrimination against sexual orientation and gender identity into a minimum, there is still much to do when it comes to it.

“It is our hope that the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate will heed the call of the Filipino people by passing this important legislation as soon as possible to address the long-standing discrimination against LGBTQIA+ in Philippine society,” Gabriela Representative Arlene Brosas said.

Support for legislation regarding LGBTQ+ rights promises equality for our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters. This month, let us help our fellow human beings in this quest for fairness through our own big or small ways. Together, let us make everyone feel safe in their own uniqueness and embrace diversity.