Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Malta Today: Malta Gay Rights Movement ‘disappointed’ with cohabitation bill

Malta Gay Rights Movement says cohabitation bill does not put gay relationships at par with marriage and stigmatises same-sex couples.
Tuesday 28 August 2012 - 14:38

Malta Gay Rights Movement coordinator Gabi Calleja.

The Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) has expressed disappointment at the newly-launched bill to regulate cohabiting couples, saying the law failed to accede to the gay rights' lobby's demands.

"It is hugely disappointing that the [cohabitation] bill proposed does not accede to most of MGRM's demands and fails to attain even the minimal level of recognition acceptable, that is civil unions at a par with marriage," the MGRM said.

Justice Minister Chris Said launched a consultation process over Malta's first act to regulate cohabiting partners, which is expected to be debated in parliament in October. Said said the new bill will not be providing an alternative to marriage, but safeguard the right of cohabiting partners.

In recognising same-sex partnerships, this is the first act that gives homosexual couples a standard form of recognition in terms of rights and obligations.

MGRM coordinator Gabi Calleja pointed out that as things stand, the bill acknowledges those who enter into a de jure cohabitation agreement as next of kin and grants residency rights to those who come from Third Countries but continues to exclude these couples from the government's definition of family.

"For those same-sex headed households which also include children, the role and contribution of the non-biological parent is only recognised if and when the biological parent dies to the detriment of the children concerned," Calleja said.

She noted that same-sex couples who are both registered on the child's birth certificate as parents, as is possible for those children born in the UK and a number of other EU countries or Australia for example, "will not be able to register their child in Malta in a similar manner."

"In effect, the child will lose a legal parent on moving to Malta. This is unacceptable and considered to be an infringement of the child's rights as well as a breach of the freedom of movement directive where EU citizens are concerned."

MGRM insisted that while the government may chose to present this bill as a considerable step forward, the movement believes that such a bill continues to stigmatise same-sex couples and their families as inferior by preventing access to equal rights and creating a separate form of recognition that is by far inferior to marriage.

Calleja said the bill also serves to justify and perpetuate the homophobia that exists in society. "We call on the government to take a leadership role in this matter and ensure that all citizens have access to equal recognition before the law rather than allow for the prejudice and homophobia of some sectors of society from presenting a more just law."

The movement said that it was involved in a number of consultation meetings with minister Chris Said regarding the legal recognition of same-sex couples and their families and presented its Position Paper on Marriage Equality published in January of this year which laid out the reasoning behind the Movement's demands.

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