Thursday, 26 November 2009

Times: MEPs undo same-sex marriage proposal; Reason prevailed, compromise found - Busuttil

Thursday, 26th November 2009 by Ivan Camilleri, Brussels

The European Parliament yesterday approved an amendment that effectively quashes a proposal to have same-sex marriages recognised all over the EU, including countries that prohibit such unions.

The amendment, moved by Simon Busuttil on behalf of the European People's Party, avoids a political clash between member states and the European Parliament.

Last-minute negotiations between political groups found the backing of the Socialists and Dr Busuttil's amendment was approved with 487 votes in favour, 122 against and 49 abstentions.

The amendment changes the call made by the Civil Liberties Committee of the EP to insert a paragraph in the so-called Stockholm programme - a five year blueprint plan for justice and home affairs - to ensure that the principle of mutual recognition is applied to same-sex couples in the EU at least in relation to rights relating to freedom of movement.

As it stands, the declaration now provides no new rights to gay and lesbian couples as it simply calls for there not to be any discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, something EU legislation already covers.

The text approved by the EP yesterday "calls on member states, without prejudice to national legislations on family law, to ensure freedom of movement to EU citizens and their families, including registered partnerships and marriages, according to articles 2 and 3 of Directive 2004/38/EC, avoiding all kinds of discriminations on all grounds, including sexual orientation".

Dr Busuttil expressed his satisfaction that "reason has prevailed and that a compromise was found".

"We (the EPP) are not in favour of same-sex marriage and, therefore, we could not support the recognition of same-sex marriages contracted in other member states. However, other than this, we are committed to the principle of non-discrimination, including on the basis of discrimination and want to work against the exclusion of persons on this basis," he said.

"I know that this is a sensitive issue for different people with diverging positions on this matter, however, my compromise was reasonable and fair and that is why it found the support of the majority in the Chamber."

However, not all political parties welcomed Dr Busuttil's move as the Liberals, the third largest political group in the EP, criticised this compromise.

Dutch MEP Sophie In't Veld, who is also vice-president of the Civil Liberties Committee, said she was very disappointed that Christian Democrats and Socialists watered down the Liberals' commitment to ensure equal treatment for same-sex couples across the Union.

"As a result, I fear that discrimination will persist," she said.

Same-sex marriages are only legal in four out of the 27 member states, namely the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Sweden. The Civil Liberties Committee wanted that marriages between gay or lesbian couples in these four countries should start being recognised by the other 23 member states that do not permit it, including Malta.

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

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