Friday, 26 March 2010

Times: PN councillor urges action by government on cohabitation

Mary Ann Borg Cunen, Anthony Camilleri, Cyrus Engerer and Peppi Azzopardi at the debate on homosexuality organised by Move. Nationalist councillor and gay rights activist Cyrus Engerer said the government was doing nothing to advance gay rights.

Nationalist Party councillor and gay rights activist Cyrus Engerer has criticised the government saying it was not doing anything on cohabitation, even though the issue featured on the party's past three electoral manifestos.

"We can't keep on speaking about discrimination, marriage and adoption as if gays were any different," the Malta Gay Rights Movement activist said after commending Alternattiva Demokratika for being the only party that was clear in its policies on homosexuals.

Mr Engerer was speaking at a debate on homosexuality in Malta, organised by student group Move on the University campus.

"When it comes to the Labour Party, we hear (leader) Joseph Muscat mentioning these issues a lot but it is still not clear what he would do if elected in government," Mr Engerer said, pointing out that even though a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender section had been set up within the party, it still had homophobic members.

Speaking as a PN councillor, Mr Engerer said the party had members who were homosexual and he had no problem contesting the local council elections, even though he was openly gay.

"The Prime Minister had said he had no problem with his candidates being gay as long as they had no problem with it," Mr Engerer said.

Anthony Camilleri, a member of Labour's LGBT section, said the group only had "five to 10" people in its ranks and the positions taken by the section would not necessarily be reflected by the PL at large.

Mary Ann Borg Cunen, a counsellor at the University and a psychologist specialising in sexuality, said no study she read had said children brought up by homosexual couples exhibited any psychological disorders. "The only problem is that they might be discriminated against in schools," she said.

TV presenter Peppi Azzopardi said children in schools were constantly being fed images of a stereotypical family with "a man and a woman with a boy and a girl," which contributed to homophobia in society.

Homophobia was worse in Gozo than in Malta, according to Mr Camilleri. He said that in his job as a support worker he often met boys as young as 14 who were kicked out of their homes for "coming out" as homosexuals to their parents.

Mr Engerer encouraged people who were gay to admit it and come out eventually but "only when they were in a stable situation to do so". If, for example, the person knew their parents would kick them out of the house, they had to come out when they knew they could afford living on their own.

He also said homophobia was fuelled by the Church's statements, with "us getting used to Gozo Bishop Mario Grech speaking about homosexuals very regularly".

Mgr Grech said the other day that a book claiming that St Ġorġ Preca and St Paul had homosexual tendencies tried to discredit the Church.

While Mr Engerer defended the move, saying perhaps these saints could not come out in their lifetime, Mr Azzopardi said it was not fair to make such statements as those contained in the book because these people had never expressed their sexual orientation in their lifetime.

The book, Queer Mediterranean Memories, by Joseph C. Chetcuti, was recently discussed on Mr Azzopardi's programme Xarabank.

The presenter said he was shocked, however, that he was hearing comments implying gay people could not be saints.

Ms Borg Cunen said studies had shown that most homophobic people often had homosexual tendencies themselves.

She said women were more fluid in their sexual orientation while men tended to be more set in their ways, even though members of both sexes had homosexual tendencies to some degree or other.

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

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