• US Embassy issued fiance visa to same sex couple

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    The United States Embassy in Manila issued the first fiance visa to a same-sex couple after the “momentous decision” of the US Supreme Court to strike off the portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman only.

    The fiance visa was issued on December 2 Noel “Aeinghel” Amaro, a Filipino, and Robert Cotterman, a US military who will be coming from a tour in Afghanistan in January 2014. The two met online and will get married in January next year in the United States.

    “Although same-sex marriage is not yet recognized in the Philippines, gay Americans are now able to petition for family-based visas on behalf of their Filipino spouses, fiancés, and their children,” the embassy said in a statement.

    Debates about same-sex marriage in a predominantly Catholic nation like the Philippines have never gained ground primarily because of the Church’s strong opposition to it. Politics, widely linked to the Catholic Church and other religious sects, has also failed to open up talks about the possibility of allowing same-sex marriage.

    In June of this year, the US Supreme Court has finally overturned a portion of the DOMA that only recognized the union of a man and a woman as marriage. It happened amid a supposed “breakthrough” in gay rights movement in the country as 16 out of 50 states moved to allow same-sex marriage.

    “Overturning DOMA signifies that the US federal government must extend all federal rights and privileges of marriage to any married couple, regardless of sexual orientation,” the embassy said.

    Government employees in gay marriages will also be accorded the same benefits as those in heterosexual unions.

    The embassy also issued a fiance visa to Maria Cecilia Limson Gahuman and Maria Carla Antonio, a couple who met through a mutual friend a decade ago and is set to get married in California by the end of this year. Antonio, an American, was finally able to petition for Gahuman, a Filipina.

    The couple will end their 10-year, long-distance relationship, the embassy said.

    “Advancing gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender equality has been one of President [Barack] Obama’s top priorities,” the embassy said.

    When the first visa for same-sex couple was issued in London, US Secretary of State John Kerry stated that “one of the most important exports by far is America’s belief in the equality of all people.”

    He also noted that, “the State Department, which has always been at the forefront of equality in the federal government . . . is tearing down an unjust and an unfair barrier that for too long stood in the way of same-sex families being able to travel as a family to the United States.”

    Because of these changes, the embassy in Manila wants to educate homesexual Filipinos about new visa opportunities. It said that Filipinos in same-sex relationships with Americans are “encouraged” to study the options available for them at the Visas section of the embassy’s website www.manila.usembassy.gov for more information. BERNICE CAMILLE V. BAUZON

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