By MIRIAM DALLI
Some 400 gay activists this morning filled the streets in Valletta calling for equal recognition.
With the theme ‘I Am Pride’, the march was aimed at celebrating the work carried out by activists who in different ways succeeded in bringing a change in the Maltese society.
The activists gathered in St George’s Square where local artists Alex Vella Gregory (Cikku l-Poplu) and 2011 representative for Malta at the Eurovision Song Contest Glenn Vella performed. Both artists sang songs which represented the fight LGBT community faces every day and called for people to accept who they are.
Carrying placards reading “I shouldn’t need to be here”, “God is an equal opportunity lover” and “Get your scriptures off my civil rights” the activists marched through Valletta under the scorching sun, filling the streets with cheers and fun.
The march also marked the 10th anniversary since the inception of the Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM). MGRM coordinator Gabi Calleja was awarded the Soldier Award, commemorating the work Calleja has done in fighting for LGBT (lesbian, gays, bisexual and transgender) rights and equal recognition.
Present at the march were also Opposition leader Joseph Muscat, Labour MPs – and regular attendees – Evarist Bartolo and Owen Bonnici, Nationalist MP Karl Gouder, PN candidate Cyrus Engerer , Alternattiva Demokratika (AD) and Moviment Graffiti.
Addressing those present, Bartolo said he was pleased to see new faces attending the march. “The LGBT community must have the same human rights which the rest of society has,” Bartolo said, who last Decemberpresented a private members’ bill for a Gender Identity Act drafted by MGRM.
“We are leaving from nothing to see our society change and for LGBT to benefit from rights. A society, which discriminates on sexual orientation, which doesn’t give equal rights to everyone is unjust and inhumane.”
Closing of his brief speech, amidst cheering and clapping Bartolo shouted “the fight goes on (la lotta continua)”.
Probably the first leader from both the PN and the PL who ever attended a gay pride march, Muscat said, “I’m here to express my support to MGRM.”
Bonnici said that LGBT people are individuals like all others and should not be entitled to the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts.
AD chairperson Michael Briguglio once again called on parliament to legislate in favour of the cohabitation law and civil unions. He said: “On cohabitation, AD believes that persons who live together for an established number of years should have rights and responsibilities towards each other.”
He said that this counts for various groups including those in a relationship as well as relatives.
“On civil unions, AD believes that same-sex couples should enjoy equal legal rights and not be discriminated against in social and family policies.” Briguglio added LGBT should have the right to enter into civil unions that entail equal and mutual rights and responsibilities that married heterosexual couples are entitled too.
AD spokesperson on social policy Angele Deguara said that “a modern, pluralistic society should not base its policies on one model of the family but should recognise different family forms and design policies which reflect this reality.”
André Callus, from Moviment Graffiti, said that whilst on one side society says it “tolerates” LGBT, and on the other hand it fails when it comes to concrete action.
Carrying a placard saying ‘I am straight but not narrow’, Moviment Graffiti spokesperson Luke Buhagiar said: “It is a shame that in 2011, we are still debating about whether homosexuality and homosexual practices should be accepted, when scientific evidence clearly points out that homosexuality is simply another sexual orientations and it is definitely not a sickness of some sort.”
Recalling Gordon-John Manché’s conversion claims, Buhagiar said that “both directly and indirectly, Manché projected the idea that being gay was unnatural and morally wrong.” He added that the justification for such claims was a religious one.
“It is not difficult to realise that the struggle for gay rights is one that goes hand in hand with the struggle for a truly secular state.”
Moviment Graffiti said: “were it not for religious hatred, bigotry and scaremongering, gay marriage and other LGBT rights would have become legal a long time ago, and people’s views about the matter would surely be more understanding towards LGBT persons.”
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