Monday 16 April 2012 - 14:59
Chris Said: public consultation on cohabitation law will start following approval of the Cabinet and the PN’s parliamentary group.
Pending legislation regulating cohabitation and in vitro fertilisation has been finalised and will be shortly discussed by the Cabinet and will "definitely" be approved before the next general election.
In an interview with MaltaToday, Justice Minister Chris Said confirmed that the draft law on cohabitation which was first proposed by the Nationalist Party in 1998 but never enacted, will include a legal framework for civil partnerships for same sex partners.
Said announced that public consultation on the new law will start following approval of the cabinet and the PN's parliamentary group.
Said has made it clear that he does not intend to create a law which treats same-sex couples in the same way it treats brothers or sisters who live together in the same household.
But the minister was evasive when asked whether he will opt for the British model of civil partnerships, which gives same-sex couples exactly the same rights as married couples.
According to Said the new law will be limited to establishing "basic rights and obligations entailed in a civil partnership", but he does not exclude extending these rights.
"The end result will reflect the feedback we receive from stake holders and the general public after the draft bill is published."
As regards IVF, which has been the subject of three reports issued by two parliamentary committees in two different legislatures, the draft law has been finalised "and will be shortly discussed in the cabinet before being submitted to parliament."
He also revealed that the new law will seek to avoid the destruction of embryos, and freezing will only be permitted in exceptional circumstances.
The government is looking positively at medical advancements in the field which have made it possible to freeze unfertilised ova (eggs) instead of fertilised embryos a process known as oocyte vitrification.
Commenting on Bishop Mario Grech's condemnation of IVF in a recent homily, Said insisted that politicians have to give due weight to the Catholic church's position but ultimately have to "see what is right for the general good of the country."
While insisting that the government's intention is simply that of regulating something which is already legal, he recognised that "IVF can give couples who cannot have children otherwise the greatest gift in life; children."
Chris Said also expressed his agreement with a comprehensive reform of the justice system especially with regards to the appointment of magistrates and judges who are currently appointed by the government of the day.
Said wants to explore different models for the appointment of judges before pronouncing himself on an alternative model. "I want to discuss this reform with the opposition and am currently consulting with different stakeholders in this sector".Chris Said also thinks that Nationalist MP Franco Debono's proposal to separate the Attorney General role as a prosecutor from that of the government's legal advisor is valid and should be discussed. "We have a system in which one person is occupying two different roles... We have to consider whether the time has come to change it."