Sunday, 10 July 2011

Times: Seminar on same-sex marriage
Saturday, July 9, 2011 , by David Schembri

It had yet to be seen whether New York State’s approval of gay marriage would be a footnote in history or a watershed event, US Charge d’Affaires Richard Mills said.

Mr Mills said the campaign in New York showed that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered rights “are not exclusive to Democrats or Republicans, the right or left, but they are rights of all people, from all political parties, religions and economic classes”.

He was speaking at a seminar on same-sex marriage organised by the Malta Gay Rights Movement in conjunction with the US Embassy ahead of today’s gay parade in Republic Street, Valletta, at 10.30 a.m.

He said the US was moving towards increased acceptance of same-sex unions and President Barack Obama’s position in favour of such unions, although not same-sex marriage, was also “evolving along with the US people’s”. “US policy is based on the simple principle that LGBT rights are human rights,” Mr Mills said.

In his presentation, human rights lawyer and legal consultant for the MGRM, Neil Falzon outlined the different reasons why same-sex unions were relevant.

One of the main reasons why it was worth considering, Dr Falzon said, was that “anything outside of the law does not exist, does not have rights and responsibilities and does not enjoy protection”.

He pointed out there were different levels of unions in action, all of which had varying degrees of rights and responsibilities.

Marriage equality was when homosexuals could get married and benefit from the same legal rights heterosexual married couples enjoyed. This was the case in Belgium, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

Another form of union was a registered partnership, which could have as many rights as marriage but which was generally easier to dissolve than a marriage and adoption was not generally allowed.

Varying forms of partnerships existed in Andorra, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Belgium, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, Slovenia, France, Switzerland and the UK, Dr Falzon said.

A similar union, he said, was cohabitation, where it was even easier to dissolve the union and which did not afford as many rights as the previous unions.

Twenty-eight per cent of the EU, including Malta, did not recognise homosexual relationships, which “does not mean no rights” but that other rights that came auto­matically in marriage had to be regulated by couples themselves, Dr Falzon said.

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