MANILA, Philippines — International watchdog Human Rights Watch on Tuesday said that President Rodrigo Duterte seeming backpedal on same-sex marriage endangers the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Filipinos.

Carlos Conde, Philippines researcher for HRW, said on Tuesday that Duterte’s pronouncement saying same-sex marriage cannot be allowed in the Philippines because of cultural and legal impediments “jeopardizes the fundamental rights of LGBT partners and families.”

Speaking before the Filipino community in Myanmar on Sunday, President Duterte clarified that marriage in the Philippines is between a man and a woman.

“Yun ang kultura nila. Eh di kayo lang, hindi ‘yan pwede sa amin. Katoliko kami at there is the Civil Code, which says that you can only marry a woman for me… for a woman to marry a man,” Duterte said.

The statement was part of a rant against how western values like human rights are apparently being forced on the Philippines.

Under the Civil Code of the Philippines, marriages can only be between “any male of the age of sixteen years or upwards, and any female of the age of fourteen years or upwards.

Before he declared his presidential bid however, Duterte said that same-sex marriage is good because “everyone deserves to be guaranteed happy.”

Additionally, Conde noted that Dutere said in the past that he was open to the idea “if [draft same-sex marriage legislation] reaches [him] in whatever capacity.”

Conde said that allowing same-sex marriage would strengthen everyone’s rights and would allow members of the LGBT community to marry the person they love.

“From a human rights perspective, broadening civil marriage to couples of the same sex demonstrates respect for the fundamental rights of equality and nondiscrimination,” Conde added.

He noted that couples of the same gender are forced to resort to other means, including special power of attorney, to provide even a fragment of legal protection to their relationship since their unions are not recognized under marriage laws.

Conde added that Duterte should push to protect the rights of the LGBT community in the Philippines through legislation “starting with same-sex marriage.” Bills penalizing discrimination against LGBTs have been filed, debated and ultimately floundered in Congress.

Among the arguments, unfounded based on the actual bills filed, that critics of the anti-discrimination bills is that passage could lead to the legalization of same-sex marriages.

HRW said that the Philippines should enshrine same-sex marriage into law, joining other countries such as the United States, South Africa, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay, New Zealand, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, and Ireland.

Original article here: HRW: Duterte statement on same-sex marriage puts LGBT rights at risk