Phillippines president Rodrigo Duterte has said he wants to legalise same-sex marriage, a move that would bring him into conflict with the dominant Roman Catholic Church.
Speaking before the LGBT community in his southern home city of Davao on Sunday, Duterte said any religious morality opposing gay marriage is ‘no longer working’.
The controversial President has been a longtime critic of the church, which counts about 80 per cent of Filipinos as followers, and has accused a Catholic priest of sexually abusing him as a child.
Change: President Duterte said any religious morality opposing homosexual unions is ‘no longer working’, and he wants to legalise same-sex marriage
‘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.
In 2015 he alleged that he himself has been the victim of sexual abuse by a priest as a teenager, He named a now-deceased American preacher as his abuser, saying he was too young and too scared to report it at the time.
Moving with the times: Mr Duterte said he was prepared to change the law to allow same-sex marriage in the Philippines
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 centrepiece ‘war on drugs’ policy.
Duterte, whose allies control both houses of Congress, did not specify how same-sex marriage would be legalised.
‘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 womanising and joking about rape. But he has also had allies in the gay and lesbian community for many years.