Friday, 29 January 2010

Times: Gay rights activists object to President's definition of marriage

Thursday, 28th January 2010

The Malta Gay Rights Movement is objecting to President George Abela's narrow definition of marriage, which it believes excludes a "significant majority".

In an open letter to Dr Abela, MGRM referred to his definition of the family as a man and a woman, in a life-long commitment, linked to procreation. Addressing a national conference on the family last Saturday, he also emphasised the need for both a mother and a father for a family to exist.

"Whether intentionally or not, he excluded all those married couples who could not have children, including childless couples, adoptive parents, foster parents, single parents, cohabiting couples and any children they might have, and, of course, gay and lesbian parents," the movement said.

Asked for its reaction, the President's Office said: "The speech is available publicly and, as a public text, it is subject to whatever interpretation anybody who reads it might attribute to it. There is, therefore, nothing to add to what has been in the public domain for the past four days."

MGRM said in explaining the understanding of marriage in Maltese law, the President held that this was understood to mean the natural union of a man and a woman based on the difference between the sexes.

"The implication is that a union between two people of the same sex is, of course, unnatural. Clinging to this 'understanding' is a failure to acknowledge that, while up to 40 or so odd years ago homosexuality was deemed unnatural and a mental illness, science and research have taught us this is not the case," it said.

"Homosexuality is simply a natural and normal variant in human nature as well as in other species. While there are plenty of countries that have failed to take on this knowledge and continue to criminalise homosexuality, we were under the impression that, in line with other Western nations, Malta had actually moved on."

MGRM said in its letter, also addressed to the permanent secretary at the Social Policy Ministry, Frans Borg, that, to "make matters worse", the President also questioned whether children adopted by same-sex couples could lead to them suffering psychological and social harm.

It said it was parenting qualities such as love, commitment, responsibility and the ability to provide for the needs of the child that mattered.

To suggest that by simply being gay or lesbian caused harm to children was "as ridiculous as stating that no harm will befall children if their carer happens to be heterosexual".

MGRM lamented that throughout the conference, the move towards secularisation was touted as a threat to the family. The underlying message was that anyone not subscribing to Catholicism was completely lacking in any form of value system or, at most, could only hold an inferior set of values.

All unmarried and separated parents were presented as selfish and irresponsible, parading one sexual partner after another with no thought to their children; all children whose parents had undergone a separation were presented as irremediably traumatised; the increased diagnoses of attention deficit disorders in children simply the result of unloving parents.

It said the introduction of divorce in Malta would unequivocally lead to the conceptualisation of marriage as a loose knot that could be easily untied at the first hurdle.

It felt the conference failed entirely to critically engage the subject matter its title portrayed: there was only one family being considered and all others were demonised and shot down.

MGRM said the conference was nothing more than "propaganda for a conservative government's agenda" and the religious right that sat solidly behind it.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website. More comments are available here.]

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