Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Times: ‘Society is surpassing the politicians on gay rights’

Sunday, July 1, 2012 by Sarah Carabott

The parade in Sliema.

Society has surpassed politicians in the fight for wider lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) solidarity, according to leading gay rights activist Gabi Calleja.

The second battle for us is marriage equality

Donning a bright red shirt with the message ‘I am on the right side of history’, the Malta Gay Rights Movement coordinator expressed satisfaction that today’s younger generation is becoming increasingly tolerant and supportive of gay rights.

Ms Calleja was speaking during the ninth local edition of the colourful Gay Pride parade, held along the Sliema front.

Some 150 parents, activists, politicians and tourists joined the parade walking behind a multicoloured balloon arch.

US Ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley joined the march and said she had come with her family and embassy staff to represent the American people and their commitment to human rights.

“We believe that everyone should be judged on their personal worth and not have to fear physical pain or discrimination because of who they are or who they love,” the ambassador said.

This year’s Pride Week is themed ‘I Am’, to highlight the diversity within our communities. Ms Calleja told those present: “We are an integral part of society, we are everywhere. We are present in society as citizens, and we are therefore asking for equal status before the law, not just as individuals but also as couples and families.”

Asked where Malta stands when it comes to LGBT tolerance, Ms Calleja said the country has seen “concrete progress”.

“But two of our major battles have yet to be won. The first one is the right for a trans-gender person to change their name and gender without the need to undergo sex reassignment surgery.

“The second battle is marriage equality. We’ve heard that a proposed civil partnership Bill will soon be made public. The Malta Gay Rights Movement will be studying this Bill carefully, but it is not a battle the movement can win alone,” she added, as those crowded around her nodded in approval.

Justice Minister Chris Said, present for the parade, reiterated that a Cohabitation Bill was presented in Parliament last week, but said that despite having a more inclusive society and legislature, there was still more to be done.

Labour MP Leo Brincat added that as a society, we have to go beyond sympathy and transform our compassion into effective inclusion. AD chairman Michael Briguglio said his party supported the calls of the LGBT community for equality in all aspects of social policy.

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