Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Independent: Cohabitation Bill 'insulting' to gay people
Article published on 05 June 2011 by Francesca Vella

The forthcoming presentation of a Bill on cohabitation is insulting to gay people, according to Cyrus Engerer and Nikita Alamango, two of the 'faces' of the pro-divorce movement StandUp.

In an interview with our sister daily newspaper being published tomorrow, Mr Engerer, the Sliema deputy mayor, and Ms Alamango, a member of the Labour Party's national executive, said that StandUp will not cease to exist now that the majority of the population has voted in favour of divorce legislation.

Mr Engerer and Ms Alamango come from different parties, but they believe that they should and can work together on things they both agree on, such as legislation that would give gay people the right to get married.

Aside from these young politicians, StandUp is made up of other young people with different political views, and the vote in favour of EU membership eight years ago had strengthened the country's principles of solidarity, equality and tolerance, the group said.

"For seven years we were stagnant. Now we have voted in favour of divorce, but this is just the beginning. People voted on divorce as part of a whole package with respect to a modern, European, secular Malta. It started when the referendum result was announced. We are now on the path to give full equal rights to all citizens," said Mr Engerer.

Ms Alamango added: "We're not talking about anything new; we're talking about what is supposed to be there, but is not."

StandUp is against the way the cohabitation Bill will tackle LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) relationships since it will put them on a par with friendships and relationships between brothers and sisters, or a man and his uncle.

"Although the contents of the cohabitation Bill are yet to be officially revealed, it will simply give recognition to the fact that people are living under the same roof, which is different to recognising that people have an intimate, loving relationship. It insults me deeply that my relationship will be same as a relationship between a brother and a sister," said Mr Engerer, adding that it is gay marriage that will truly give gay couples equal rights that 'straight' couples have.

He asked whether or not Malta is truly an EU country, and pointed out that the freedom of movement principle does not work properly when EU citizens don't benefit from the same rights.

How could you have freedom of movement if one State recognises a gay couple, while another State does not?

Mr Engerer brought up as an example, a Spanish gay person who is in a relationship with a Turkish person. That couple can get married and live in Spain, but they cannot settle down in Malta, even though Spain and Malta are both EU members and therefore technically both apply the principle of freedom of movement.

The Turkish person would either need a visa, or live in Malta for just three months or so – he or she would not be able to settle down here with his or her partner, and that, said Mr Engerer, goes against EU law.

StandUp will be fighting for a system in which there is mutual recognition of laws with respect to the single market in the EU; certain rights have to be the same in every EU country.

The group also intends working in the field of IVF (in vitro fertilisation). Mr Engerer and Ms Alamango said the Social Affairs Committee seems to want to take a very conservative stand with respect to IVF. For instance, gay people would be excluded from the law, and there is also an issue with regard to embryo freezing and the number of embryos that can be frozen.

A number of issues such as these, explains Mr Engerer, boil down to the fact that there is still no proper separation between Church and State in Malta; otherwise politicians would not have a problem legislating on such matters.

"Nikita and I, together with other young people in StandUp, have found things we agree on. We may not necessarily agree on issues such as utility bills, but we have no problem working together in areas on which we have a common stand."

Their intention is to do politics in a different way to what people have been used to over the years, in the same way that people from the different political parties (particularly Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, Evarist Bartolo, Michael Falzon and Michael Briguglio) came together to campaign in favour of divorce.

Ms Alamango pointed out: "We want to do this, even if the issues we will be fighting for are not necessarily in line with a particular stand taken by our party. To give you an example, most probably Joseph Muscat will be proposing civil partnerships for gay people, but I will definitely fight for gay marriage."

The full interview will be published in tomorrow's edition of The Malta Independent.

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