Monday, 23 January 2012

Times: Gay couples ‘deserve’ full marital rights

Monday, January 16, 2012, by Claudia Calleja

Gay couples deserve the right to marry civilly and benefit from rights that are now limited to heterosexual spouses, the Malta Gay Rights Movement believes.

Equality is not a luxury, it is a basic human right and the time for it is now
The movement has just released a position paper asking that the legal definition of civil marriage does not remain gender specific.

The introduction of divorce last year showed that the definition of marriage could be changed, said lawyer Neil Falzon who was commissioned to draw up the document.

He stressed that the position paper tackled civil marriage and was not, in any way, asking the Church to redefine its understanding of marriage. What it did do was ask legislators and judges to make a clear distinction between Church and civil marriage because, at times, the courts blurred the dividing line.

Dr Falzon noted that allowing gay people to marry civilly would grant them full equality and access to a whole range of rights that come with signing a marriage contract.

The rights – such as adoption, inheritance and pensions – were not necessarily covered by the cohabitation law the government promised, he said. MGRM coordinator Gabi Calleja pointed out that the cohabitation law did not recognise the relationship between the couple.

“No harm ensues to society from granting equal rights to same-sex couples and, therefore, any delay cannot be morally justified... Equality is not a luxury, it is a basic human right and the time for it is now,” she said.

When asked about public opinion, she said the divorce debate had shown people were open to the redefinition of marriage. Public opinion, she added, was often resistant to gay unions when it came to the issue of children.

On this subject, the position paper notes that there are several gay couples who had children either because one of them adopted a child or because they had a child from a previous relationship, for example.

However, the lack of marriage equality means, the paper says, that such couples are not in a position to grant full protection to the children who do not have two legal parents.

The joint duties and authority of a married couple towards their children cover issues such as maintenance, education, health, management of their assets and representation in all civil matters.

The position paper will be distributed to the major political parties and policy makers.

It can be viewed on the movement’s new website

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

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