Friday, 30 October 2009

Times: Call for equal rights for all forms of family
Friday, 30th October 2009 by Claudia Calleja

Photo: Chris Sant Fournier

Religious beliefs should not influence decisions to enact laws giving equal rights to gay people because it is the role of parliamentarians to ensure there is no discrimination between citizens.

"We need the necessary legislation changes to ensure different forms of families are recognised as equal before the law, irrespective of sexual orientation... This is not about religion but basic human rights," Malta Gay Rights Movement coordinator Gabi Calleja said.

Ms Calleja echoed the words of Labour education spokesman Evarist Bartolo who insisted gay rights were human rights and the government should not adopt the argument that the country was not ready to uphold them.

"The time is now. Countries can afford to wait but life is too short for those men and women who just want to be treated like the heterosexuals around them," he said during a conference organised by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA-Europe).

His words were greeted with loud applause by activists from 49 countries who attended the annual conference that runs until Sunday.

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Louis Galea, also stressed the importance of upholding the rights of everyone irrespective of their sexual orientation.

While he supported equal rights, Dr Galea said he was still "searching for the truth" about same-sex marriages. It was important that dialogue continued on various subjects such as the conflicts between religious beliefs and the interests of same-sex couples.

While Malta did not have a specific law for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBTs), he said rights were safeguarded through various laws that touched upon employment and gender equality, among other things.

But, Ms Calleja noted, addressing issues faced by LGBT specifically in legislation guaranteed protection and security and would help bring about a change in mentality.
President George Abela, who met the ILGA conference representatives on Wednesday, stressed the importance of information and education in tackling discrimination, increasing tolerance and accepting of differences.

In an effort to start changing ingrained misperceptions, four awareness-raising posters will be put up on Malta's bus stops to promote tolerance towards different types of families.

"We are asking for the recognition of what already exists. In Malta we have same-sex couples who live as a family," Ms Calleja said.

The posters - labelled Different Families, Same Love - highlight the challenges that LGBT families and their children face due to the lack of legal recognition.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

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