Monday, 5 April 2010

MaltaToday: Gays and Straight – equal in the eyes of the State
4.4.10 by Claudine Cassar

The Social Affairs Committee is currently discussing a bill to regulate cohabitation. The members of the committee are open to suggestion and are currently asking for feedback from the public, so much so that Edwin Vassallo said: “We are conducting this exercise with a very open mind and we are not excluding anyone. We want to listen to feedback from everyone, including cohabiting sisters, couples of the same sex and separated people.”
My hope is that the inclusion of all types of couples does not end at the feedback stage. Cohabiting homosexual couples, for example, experience exactly the same problems as heterosexual ones. This law must be drafted in a manner that allows same-sex couples to register their partnership in an official manner – which will give them important rights such as the right of inheritance and a widow/er’s pension. We cannot continue living in a society where the only option for same-sex couples is to pull a Francia and adopt their lover!
There are also various other important issues that should be addressed by this bill, foremost amongst which is the right of cohabiting partners (same-sex or otherwise) to take on the role of next of kin when making important medical decisions for their partner when he or she is taken ill and is not in a position to decide for him/herself. We have heard endless stories of family members refusing to allow gay partners to visit their loved ones on their deathbeds in hospital after a serious accident or at the end of a debilitating illness – this is ridiculous and must stop.
Similarly, there must be a serious discussion relating to immigration rights in the context of cohabiting couples. When a Maltese citizen marries someone who is not Maltese, after a number of years the foreign partner becomes eligible for Maltese citizenship. People who cannot get married (either because they are separated and cannot get divorced, or because they are a same-sex couple) do not have the same option available to them. Therefore it is important that a civil union brings with it the same privileges that marriage does in this context. If you are gay and have registered your partnership, then after a number of years your partner should be entitled to citizenship. Similarly concepts such as fiancé visas should be extended to same-sex couples.
The life of gay couples is automatically harder than that of straight couples. They are to a certain extent going against the flow, so they have to face more opposition. This should not extend to the law, however – in the eyes of the State, as of God, we are all equal. There are hundreds of homosexual couples living in committed relationships in Malta – they may be a minority but that does not mean that we should ignore them. They are just as Maltese as heterosexuals, pay the same taxes as heterosexuals and should have the same rights as heterosexuals!
Anything less than that and this cohabitation law will be a failure.

1 comment:

  1. Ian BugejaApril 05, 2010

    I could not have written my thoughts better but I am very sceptic about this proposal of whether it will include gay rights regarding cohabitation. I am expecting the usual dragging of the feet from the government. This is perhaps one of the most important steps that the government may embark upon. Hopefully the right decisions will be made thus favouring no one but causing obstacles to no one either. If this does not happen I know where I won't cast my vote and hopefully many others will do the same.