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 Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 17:09 GMT
Church clashes with gays in Philippines
Gay rights activists protested outside the conference
Cardinal Sin's comments caused outrage
Gay rights activists in the Philippines have accused the Catholic Church of fanning "anti-gay hatred", following comments made at the World Meeting of Families conference in Manila.

Families are important to most Asians, gay or non-gay alike

Oscar Atadero, Progay Philippines

Addressing the conference, Church leader Cardinal Jaime Sin said that Christian family values were being "put into question by proponents of same-sex marriages".

But Oscar Atadero, spokesman for gay rights group Progay Philippines, said that the attack by Cardinal Sin was unwarranted.

He told the BBC that family life was central to most Asians, gay or not.

Priests and bishops in the 4th World Meeting of Families
Delgates came from 82 countries

He also said that if same-sex marriages were legalised, it would "be a great help in achieving the same aims that the Catholic Church were so keen on pushing: stable monogamous families".

He also emphasised the key role that gays and lesbians played in the economy, by supporting their families financially.

Gay activists said that they were not allowed to attend the conference.

But organisers said that gays and lesbians were welcome as long as they did not attend as couples.

Philippine laws do not prohibit ceremonial unions of same-sex couples, but they are not legally recognised either.

Catholicism is practised by 83% of Filipinos and the Church has a paramount role in most people's daily lives.

Although gays and lesbians are generally tolerated within Philippine society, there are still widespread cases of discimination.

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  Oscar Atadero, Gay rights activist
"offering legalised same-sex relationships would help lessen cruising"
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