Sunday, 23 May 2010

Times: Regulated cohabitation 'no answer to divorce'
Saturday, 22nd May 2010 by Juan Ameen

The regulation of cohabitation would never be an answer to questions of divorce and gay marriage, according to Fr Peter Serracino Inglott.

There had always been a need for a law on cohabitation for the sake of justice and social order, he said, but the government should focus its efforts on the more pressing issue of divorce, making a clear distinction between the two.

"While I believe there is need for a law on cohabitation, I believe the problem of divorce is more important than this," Fr Serracino Inglott said during a debate on cohabitation organised by the Malta Confederation of Women's Organisations.

The statement, by the respected former adviser to Prime Minister Eddie Fenech Adami, comes in the wake of proposals to regulate cohabitation by Parliament's Social Affairs Committee. The proposals have been criticised by some as a diluted form of divorce and gay marriage.

The proposals are up for consultation and a law is being planned to be in place by the end of the year .

Among other things, the proposals suggest the setting up of a register that would allow couples to enter a legal union which would then make them eligible for some benefits so far reserved to married couples.

In this vein it is being suggested that registered couples would be eligible to the same tax benefits as married couples and to a pension, inheritance and custody in case a cohabiting couple has children.

But Fr Serracino Inglott argued that cohabitation as a concept was not comparable to marriage. The former, he said, was for two people who looked for companionship in the setting and comfort of a home and did not necessarily mean there was a sexual relationship. "They could be siblings or a parish priest and his housekeeper living together, for example," he said, stressing the argument that marriage should not be regulated through cohabitation legislation.

Speaking from a legal standpoint, lawyer Yana Micallef Stafrace raised problems with the proposals which overlapped with this argument, saying the register system still left a lot of legal loose ends for people who had already been married and were then separated, especially when the children of a former marriage were in the picture.

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

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