Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Times: MEPs want same-sex unions recognised across borders

Tuesday, 24th November 2009 by Ivan Camilleri, Brussels

A political clash is looming between EU member states and the European Parliament over a proposal to have same-sex marriages conducted in one member state recognised in others, even where it is illegal.

A parliamentary committee wants to ensure that "the principle of mutual recognition is applied to same-sex couples in the EU - notably married couples, partners or de facto couples - at least in relation to rights relating to freedom of movement".

Same-sex marriages are only legal in four of the 27 member states, namely the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Sweden.

However, under a resolution passed in the Civil Liberties Committee, marriages between gay or lesbian couples would be recognised by the other member states, even if these do not permit such nuptials.

"This means if a gay couple marries in Sweden but resides in Malta, the Maltese authorities will have to grant these EU citizens the same rights as heterosexual couples," an EP official explained.

This would be an amendment to the Stockholm programme - an EU five-year policy plan in the area of Justice and Home Affairs - which MEPs will vote upon tomorrow in plenary.

The largest group in the EP, the European People's Party (EPP), has opposed this amendment but it was still approved by the committee. It is up to tomorrow's plenary session to decide whether to accept it or not.

Sources yesterday told The Times that the parliament "will most probably approve the resolution".

"Although in reality this will not change the present system where issues related to family law are the sole competence of member states, it will send a political message that the EU is moving towards recognising same-sex marriages, even in countries such as Malta where this is illegal," the official said.

When contacted, Maltese MEP Simon Busuttil, the EPP spokesman for the committee, stressed the EPP group was against this amendment.

"I directed the EPP members in the committee to abstain instead of voting in favour of the resolution on the Stockholm programme," Dr Busuttil said.

"I am completely against this amendment and we are conducting talks with the other political groups to try to find a compromise on this delicate issue.

"Recognition of same-sex marriages conducted in certain member states cannot be imposed on other members where this is illegal. The solution I am proposing is this should only be recognised by those countries that already permit such marriages."

The Times is informed that the Maltese government is closely watching the latest developments on this issue. According to EU treaties, the final word on such a decision is up to member states and not the EP.

If accepted by the Parliament, the amendment as inserted in the Stockholm programme would come before the European Council where still resistance would be likely.

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

[Note: Dr Simon Busuttil with his comments is now clearly breaking his commitment he made by signing the petition of International Lesbian-Gay Association just before the June MEP elections. See the text of the petition here.

It will be very interesting to see how Mr David Casa will vote since in an interview with the Times he said that the Prime Minister promised the introduction of gay partnership in Malta in this legislation and that HE voted in favour of this motion. See the video
here. Scroll to: 4:38.]

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