By Nelson Groom
Defiant same sex couples have tied the knot in an illegal mass wedding ceremony – throwing their support behind marriage equality in the Philippines.
The 12 female couples staged the ceremony on Sunday in Quezon City, northeast of the predominantly catholic nation’s capital of Manila.
The Filipino government has vowed no same-sex unions will be recognised unless a law is passed for the purpose, but that it would likely be blocked by legislators allied with the Catholic church.
But an informal church for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people has recently sprung up running ceremonies for couples to make a show of defiance – despite going against the wishes of their families.
One newlywed, who wished not to be named for fear of reprisals from her family, said she was prepared to face discrimination from the ceremony.
The woman said: “We are used to it, I don’t care how society sees us, this is our life. For me, as humans, we are equal.”
Pastor Ceejay Agbayani, 44, started the LGBTS (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Straight) Church in 2012, believes religion is both the problem and solution to the same-sex marriage debate.
Pastor Ceejay said: “If bigotry comes from religion, religion can liberate us out from bigotry.
“There are people who will tell you ‘you’ll go to hell because you’re LGBT’.
“Don’t believe in them that you’re going to hell because the bible condemns homosexual people; you cannot find the word homosexual in the bible’s original text.The bible is about love, not hate.
“The word marriage and its meaning is a social construction. That’s why our fight for same sex marriage is marriage equality.”
Videographer Nikon Celis, 32, who captured the ceremony, said: “The vast majority of Filipino’s are against same-sex marriage.
“Most of these couples don’t have the support of their families and friends, but they went ahead with a beautiful ceremony anyway.
“It was a very happy day, and there were some tears shed when the couples exchanged vows. Some people even travelled from overseas to support their friends.”
Despite his positive outlook on the ceremony, Nikon does not believe the matter will be enshrined in law anytime soon.
He added: “The couples were hopeful that the laws will be changed, but I don’t think it will happen anytime soon.
“The Philippines is not ready, and this type of ceremony is still very new here.”