Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced Sunday that he supports marriage equality in the heavily Catholic country.
“I am for same-sex marriage,” he told a group of LGBT activists in Dava. “If that is the trend of the modern times, if that will add to your happiness, who am I to stop you?” Duterte, elected in June 2016, said it didn’t make sense to “impose a morality that is no longer working… So I am with you.”
In the same talk, Duterte said he wanted to add a representative from the LGBT community to his commission on urban poor. He recently dismissed the entire committee, complaining of spending too much money on travel.
He gave LGBT advocates until the middle of January to nominate someone “who is honest and hardworking.”
“I would like to show that any… bakla [gay] man or tomboy [lesbian] can always work just like an ordinary human being.”
During his presidential campaign, Duterte said he would consider signing same-sex marriage legislation if it crossed his desk. But in March, he announced he personally opposed marriage equality. Sunday’s statement is the latest flip-flop for the 72-year-old.
The Philippines has a similarly complicated relationship with the LGBT community: Homosexuality is legal and the country has a vibrant drag scene, but discrimination and stigma persist. While a civil-unions bill is being considered in Congress, same-sex couples are currently offered no legal protections. In January, representatives for the Armed Forces stated the military was open to LGBT service members so long as they “behave properly.”
Last month a contestant surprised judges at a Filipino beauty pageant when she revealed she was dating another woman during the interview portion of the contest.
Maria Izobel Taguiam’s announcement was met generally with support.