Sunday, 17 July 2011

Independent: LGBT activists show their pride in Valletta march
Article published on 10 July 2011 by Elaine Attard

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) colours brightened up the Valletta streets yesterday morning during the annual Gay Pride March, dubbed 'I am Pride', organised by the Malta Gay Rights Movement and supported by various organisations who have the LGBT cause at heart.

Around 300 people gathered in front of the Grandmaster's Palace, which houses Parliament, carrying placards, waving rainbow flags and whistling with the aim of raising awareness on equal rights.

The crowd then marched towards Republic Street, St John's Street, Merchants Street, Melita Street and down Republic Street once again before winding up back in St George's Square.

At the end of the march, MGRM activist Gabi Calleja was presented with the Soldier Award, an initiative started by Malta Gay Exiles, an organisation created in 2006 by LGBT people who have left Malta, in response to the gay exodus that saw thousands of Maltese citizens leave the country in search of countries with legal systems that are more favourable towards the rights of homosexuals and their families. The award will be given every year.

At the end of the march Ms Calleja said she had been surprised by the award and that she had not been expecting it. "This march is a celebration of what we achieved so far. We are making a difference in various contexts. Many young people are finally feeling comfortable to express themselves and come out without fear. Parents are increasingly becoming tolerant towards their gay sons and daughters. Maltese society is slowly realising that diversity does not mean that human rights are denied to minority groups.

"We were hoping to celebrate the transsexuals' right to get married today, however the Constitutional Court decided otherwise. Subsequently, transsexual Joanne Cassar will have to continue fighting," she remarked.

The MGRM is also still waiting for the gender identity law which was moved by Labour MP Evarist Bartolo to be discussed in parliament, she said, continuing: "we all know that nothing stops MPs from discussing and introducing this law except transphobia so saying that we need to wait until Ms Cassar's case in over is nothing but an excuse."

Speaking on the divorce referendum, she pointed out that the result shows that Malta is changing even in terms of how the family institution is viewed.

"10 years after the MGRM was set up, we insist that the government should recognise same-sex relationships and LGBT people's families in the same way heterosexual families are. This is not an easy fight but we believe we can achieve our goals just like countries like, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Argentina, Canada and recently New York did," Ms Calleja added.

Parents' association Drachma, university student organisation We Are and LGBT Labour were presented for the pride march. "These groups are testimony of how multi-faceted our cause is. It is thanks to activists in these groups and of other individuals that the LGBT cause is brought forward," she continued.

She hopes that MGRM will have much more to celebrate on its 20th anniversary. Equality and civil rights should be each citizen's aim if this country considers itself as democratic.

Before the pride march, Alternattiva Demokratika held a press conference marking the occasion. Cohabitation and civil unions should form part of Maltese law and social policy, AD said, appealing to parliament to legislate in these fields.

AD chairperson Michael Briguglio said that AD believes that persons who live together for an established number of years should have rights and responsibilities towards each other. This counts for various groups including those in a relationship as well as relatives.

On civil unions, he said that same-sex couples should enjoy equal legal rights to enter into civil unions that entail equal mutual rights and responsibilities that married couples are entitled to. In both cases, several EU members states developed legislative models which Malta can adopt, he said.

PL spokesperson on civil rights, Evarist Bartolo said PL's presence during the march was not just symbolic. "We believe in whole human rights, that is why we are here. The road is long until LGBT will start enjoying equal rights but there is a lot one can do. Society cannot be truly just and democratic if their rights are not acknowledged," Mr Bartolo added.

Stand Up representatives Cyrus Engerer and Nikita Alamango told the Malta Independent that the movement will be continued until Malta achieves civil liberties. "Equality is one of our main issues. The divorce debate showed us that inter-party collaboration is the only way to bring civil rights forward. We want full marriage equality not just civil partnerships. Love is what makes a family not gender," they said.

Supporting the pride march, NGO Żminijietna said it welcomes the UN resolution on gay rights based on the rejection of abuses against people with a different sexual orientation.

Moviment Graffiti said that it is high time for tolerance to move beyond accepting LGBT for who they are and start acknowledging their rights and responsibilities. It is hypocritical to speak about their cause while LGBT issues are not on the political agenda, they said.

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