Today, Geraldine Roman, a member of the Filipino House of Representatives who is the first-ever openly transgender lawmaker in the history of the Philippines, stood up in Congress and made a powerful speech imploring her fellow legislators to to vote in favor of a new law that would criminalize discrimination against queer people.
Much like anti-discrimination bills currently being debated in the U.S., the Anti-Discrimination Bill on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity would prevent LGBTQ people from being denied housing, jobs, or access to basic services merely because of their sexualities or gender identities.
While being gay is legal in the Philippines, there are no express legal protections for queer people currently on the books to protect them. If passed, the law would make it so that instances of anti-LGBTQ discrimination came along with six-year stints in prison along with hefty financial fines.
Roman’s speech was eloquent and moving.
“We are your brothers. We are your sisters. Your sons and your daughters, your nieces and nephews,” she said, tearing up. “We are your family. We are your friends, your schoolmates, your colleagues at work, your Twitter and Facebook buddies, your neighbors. We are part of society…we love and we yearn to be loved. We are human beings.We love our families. We love our country. We are proud Filipinos, who just happen to be LGBT. The question is: do we, as members of the LGBT community, share the same rights as all other citizens? Does the state grant us equal protection under our laws?”
She added, “I am glad and proud that the members of the 17th Congress have not only welcomed me with open arms. They have dealt with me as a full-fledged colleague. As an equal. Hopefully as you have fully accepted me, you would also accept equality among all Filipinos, LGBTQ or not.”
Technically speaking, the bill that Roman has come out in support of isn’t new; similar legislation was initially introduced 17 years ago, where it has languished without substantial support. In her speech, Roman expressed her hopes that her speech would galvanize the other representatives to vote in favor of the law and finally bring it to fruition.
“My dear brother and sisters in the LGBT community, I want you to know that I am but one voice among man in this august chamber that says it it time,” Roman said. “It is time to pass the Anti-Discrimination Bill on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. And the time is now.”