MANILA: A landmark case to legalise gay marriage was rejected by the Philippines' highest court yesterday, but LGBT advocates in the deeply Catholic nation vowed to push their battle in the legislature. Lead plaintiff Jesus Falcis had said the current law was a violation of his rights, but in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court threw out his case primarily on technical grounds.

Government lawyers argued Falcis had never tried to get married, thus would not benefit if justices struck down the portions of the 1987 law defining marriage as between a man and woman. Though the Philippines has a reputation for being accepting of same-sex relationships, few legal protections and rights exist in a nation where conservative Catholic values are deep-seated. Abortion is illegal and the country of about 107 million is the only place outside the Vatican where divorce is outlawed. Roughly 80 percent of the population is considered Christian.

Despite its decision, in a text released to journalists, the court noted the "constitution does not define, or restrict, marriage on the basis of… sexual orientation, or gender identity". It went on to say that same-sex unions "may, for now, be a matter that should be addressed to Congress". Danton Remoto, chair of LGBT political party Ang Ladlad, meaning Out of the Closet, told AFP that regardless of the rejection, the community would continue its battle for equal rights.

"It simply means we have to continue advocacy for legislating an anti-discrimination bill in Congress, where we have many allies," Remoto said. However, he acknowledged it will be difficult to pass a bill on gender equality in the Senate, whose leader has already ruled out approving such a measure. "The great stumbling block will be the Senate, peopled by Christian fundamentalists who have forgotten that there is separation of church and state in the Philippines," he said. - AFP