Tuesday, 11 August 2009

MaltaStar: Gays still afraid to come out - Maltese gay activist


Gays still afraid to come out - Maltese gay activist

Patrick Attard is an outspoken Maltese gay activist who decided to excommunicate himself from the Catholic Church, an event which caught the attention of local media – needless to point out, that the conservative media shunned the event. In a candid interview with maltastar.com he speaks his mind on civil partnership, civil rights and Maltese conservatism.

Engineer Attard is the first openly Maltese gay to contest a local election. He has since not been involved in politics. However he remains as committed as ever to defend and extend gay rights.

An interview on PBS ‘reporter’ programme was only aired on the condition that the following day an interview with Mgr Gouder is screened. He feels that although there is a balance in the reporting of the different political parties. However, no such balance seems to exist between “Church's time-allocation and other secular and liberal views.”

“The Catholic Church in Malta is too powerful and it interferes too much in Maltese politics. Remember that before the MEP elections the Bishops sent a statement to tell voters to vote for those who say that marriage should only be only between a man and a woman,” explained Dr Attard.

According to Dr Attard there are from 15,000 to 30,000 gays, lesbians and bi-sexuals in Malta. However only 150 people, among them heterosexuals, attended the gay pride walk organised by the Malta Gay Rights Movement on the 19 July.

Dr Attard believes that homosexuals might end up “having problems at home or work should people see them on TV.” Yet, it is the disillusionment in the political system that seems to put off many gay people from such activities.

“They give up the hope that anything will change with their attendance considering that cohabitation rights have been promised by this current administration for over 10 years and very little has been done - and only thanks to the EU,” he said.

Dr. Ing. Patrick Attard and Lana Turner holding a photocopy of their Excommunication Declaration outside the Curia Office in Floriana.

Civil partnership and Civil Unions

Is it possible that after all gay people do not care about ‘gay rights’? “It might be possible that young gay people don't understand entirely why a civil partnership or gay marriage is so important and don't see the need for it,” Dr Attard told this e-newspaper. “Civil partnership gives you the right to stay by the bedside of your loved one when he needs it most. It gives you the visitation rights, the right for urgent family leave from work, the right to take medical-related decisions in case the other person is unable to do so, the right for bereavement leave when he/she dies and the right to organise a funeral.”

“These are all rights which no-one likes to think about and are taken for granted - but what happens if you are left out of the hospital ward because you are just a friend should a serious accident occurs?”

Dr Attard added: “Civil partnership and gay marriage is about spending the rest of your life with the loved one. It is not about the Institution of Marriage or to try and ridicule the Church's teaching but the Church remains the biggest obstacle. Remember that Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi's uncle Mgr Gonzi was against the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1973.”

Does the EU matter?

Malta has been part of the European Union for nearly a decade now, yet the Maltese government is as conservative as ever in resisting civil rights. However, does the EU matter? “Gay marriage or civil partnerships exist in a number of countries - Just like divorce obtained in other countries is recognised in Malta, what happens if a married gay-Spanish couple on holiday in Malta and one falls seriously ill? What rights will the other one have?”

“Considering that nothing will happen in the next four years, however, MEPs can help in that Maltese people can marry a same-sex partner abroad and get the rights recognised in Malta. MEPs should work on this,” Dr Attard said.

“The recent selection of Dr Simon Busuttil as EPP's coordinator in the European Parliament's Civil Liberties (LIBE) committee is probably not very good news considering he was the worst performing Maltese MEP on gay issues in the last 5 years. He always abstains or votes against the resolution or even worse tried to remove a resolution on homophobia from the agenda of the European Parliament in 2007,” Patrick Attard said.
[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on MaltaStar's Website.]

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