[JURIST] The Supreme Court of the Philippines [official website] ruled [judgment text] Thursday that a prominent gay rights organization may field candidates in the upcoming national elections as an accredited political party. The decision invalidates an order [text, PDF] issued by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) [official website] in November that rejected a bid for party recognition by Ang Ladlad [party website]. In denying Ang Ladlad's original petition, Comelec cited the group's "[tolerance of] immorality which offends religious beliefs." The court, however, determined that the policy violated Article III, Section 5 of the Philippines Constitution [text], which has previously been interpreted to mandate "government neutrality in religious matters." The decision stated:
[W]e hold that moral disapproval, without more, is not a sufficient governmental interest to justify exclusion of homosexuals from participation in the party-list system. The denial of Ang Ladlad's registration on purely moral grounds amounts more to a statement of dislike and disapproval of homosexuals, rather than a tool to further any substantial public interest. Respondent's blanket justifications give rise to the inevitable conclusion that the Comelec targets homosexuals themselves as a class, not because of any particular morally reprehensible act.
Having met all legal requirements for certification as a party, the court ordered that Ang Ladlad be permitted to fully participate in the May elections.
The court issued a temporary restraining order [Manila Bulletin report] against Comelec in January, requiring the body to include Ang Ladlad on the list of official parties until a decision on the case's merits could be reached. In December, Comelec again rejected [GMA report] Ang Ladlad's request for accreditation. Officials voting against the group reiterated their moral concerns, and stated that their interests are sufficiently represented legislatively.