Monday, 20 July 2009

MaltaToday: PN, PL agree on ‘change in law’ for gay community

Politicians from the Labour and Nationalist Party yesterday agreed on the need for legal changes to ensure gay rights at yesterday’s annual pride march in Valletta, organised by the Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) to mark the end of international ‘DiversCity’ week.

Though yesterday’s march registered an improvement in turnout over last year, the event only attracted an odd 80 people, including representatives of political parties and civil rights groups.
Members of the General Workers’ Union, Moviment Graffitti, Zminijietna, Altrenattiva Demokratika, as well as the PN and PL marched along with the group. Among the attendees were Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil; Labour MPs Evarist Bartolo and Owen Bonnici; Sliema PN councillor Cyrus Engerer; and AD candidate Yvonne Ebejer Arqueros. Also present were members from Labour’s lesbian-gay-bi-transgender (LGBT) committee.

It was a less festive march this year as whistle-blowing was kept to a minimum and none of the marchers sported body paint or extravagant costumes. No float was set up, and there was no music or beating of drums.

Instead, a massive multicoloured balloon arch was carried by demonstrators, who also manifested placards delivering messages of acceptance. “Human rights are family values,” one placard read. Others conveyed messages such as: “Come out, come out wherever you are”; “We’re everywhere”; “I’m straight but not narrow”; and “Love is all it takes to make a family”.
After a walk round the blocks between City Gate and St John’s Co-Cathedral, the crowd gathered in Freedom Square, with MGRM president Gaby Calleja calling out for Labour MP Gino Cauchi so he could deliver his speech. Cauchi however had not yet arrived by that time.
Instead, Labour MP Evarist Bartolo made an impromptu speech calling out for a “change in law, mentality and attitude”, since “although a lot has been done, we still need to work very hard to achieve true equality… human rights are gay rights.”

Also calling out for “a change in law – where necessary, and a change in mentality”, Nationalist MEP Simon Busuttil said he was there as both a civil liberties committee member within the EP, as well as on behalf of the PN. “I represent you all,” he told the crowd. “I understand that you represent a section within the community, which for a number of reasons does not feel respected.”

Busuttil called out for change “so that you can feel part of society.”

On her part, Gaby Calleja said that gay people had to settle for semi-equality. “So what if we don’t feel safe walking hand-in-hand in public?” she said, mocking a mentality by which the gay community feels discriminated. “Or if we can’t get married? Or if my Australian partner cannot come to Malta and get a job? We still need to come here and make our voices heard. We continue to believe that justice and truth are on our side.”

Labour MP Gino Cauchi, arriving after a Labour conference in Valletta, said: “The PL believes in civil rights, whatever one’s sexual orientation,” he assured. “We all agree on this, but we must now make the leap to change words into facts.”

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