Monday, 23 January 2012

Malta Today: Early elections triggers race for gay vote – MGRM
National Thursday 19 January 2012 - 08:15, by Miriam Dalli

Early elections triggers race for gay vote – MGRM
Same-sex partnerships likely to become electoral concernMGRM has long been arguing that the right to marry should be a fundamental human right in and of itself: without discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

The prospect of early elections may influence the official positions of political parties regarding legalising civil unions between same-sex couples, according to Malta Gay Rights Movement co-ordinator Gabi Calleja: who confirmed she has already received a call for a meeting with the social policy ministry.

Last week, MGRM presented its position paper on marriage equality, insisting that the legal definition of civil marriage should not remain gender specific. The position paper, penned by aditus chairman Neil Falzon, seeks to spark a national discussion on the recognition of marriage equality in Malta - "a much needed discussion", Calleja insists.

MGRM has long been arguing that the right to marry should be recognized to all persons as a fundamental human right in and of itself: without discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

"Marriage for same-sex couples is the gateway for a host of rights and obligations which heterosexual couples enjoy. It would allow same-sex marriage to enjoy these same rights and obligations," Calleja had said during the launch, while announcing that the position paper will be given to the major political parties and policy makers.

Contacted by MaltaToday, Calleja said the movement thought it would have one year of campaigning on the issue before the parties went for elections: "But if elections are to be held earlier than scheduled, we might end up with just a number of weeks of campaigning."

Calleja said the current political situation might influence parties' position over the issues suffered by members of the LGBTI community, adding that the influence could be a positive one.

"Things could take a different turn ... there could even be pressure on both sides to try and gain as much gay votes as possible," Calleja said, adding that MGRM had already received a call from the office of Social Policy Minister Chris Said to set up a meeting.

"However I do not know what the meeting is about," she added.

In comments to MaltaToday, Said's office confirmed the minister will be meeting with members of the MGRM to discuss the position paper.

"Twelve days after his appointment as Minister for Justice, Dialogue and the Family, Chris Said is holding meetings with various stakeholders on various issues," a spokesman for the minister said.

"He has made it a point to meet members of MGRM to discuss with them the position paper they issued recently."

On the other hand, the ministry failed to answer to questions asking what is government's position on marriage equality, whether it agreed that same-sex couples should be able to adopt and whether it would be ready to define a legal civil union as marriage.

"The issues mentioned in your questions will be dealt with during that meeting," the spokesman said.

The same questions were also asked to the Labour Party, which replied: "The Labour Party has already made it amply clear it is committed to introduce civil partnership for same-sex couples. The commitment was made during last November's budget reply and part of Joseph Muscat's proposals."

Alternattiva Demokratika has long held a clear position on the rights of same-sex couples, even though the Labour Party has an LGBT branch.

Asked whether AD would refer to the civil unions as marriage, AD's spokesperson on social policy Angele Deguara said: "AD believes that same-sex couples should be able to form civil unions with all the rights of married couples."

Deguara said in many EU countries, same-sex couples can form civil partnerships or civil unions.

"In Malta no legislation exists which grants same sex couples any form of legal recognition of their relationship and their call to have their relationship legalised is understandable," Deguara said.

"AD has on more than one occasion urged policy makers to recognise this right and to provide a legal mechanism by which same sex couples can form a civil union with all the rights granted to married couples."

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