Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Malta Today: MGRM’s Gabi Calleja urges gay community to ‘vote wisely’

MGRM coordinator Gabi Calleja says Labour recognises the need for more equality and urges gay community to weigh-up its options properly and vote wisely in forthcoming general election.
Saturday 22 September 2012 - 11:51 by  Jurgen Balzan

Gabi Calleja said Labour is acknowledging the need for more rights for same-sex couples.

The LGBT community should weigh up their options well and choose carefully in the run-up to the forthcoming general election, Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) coordinator Gabi Calleja said.

Speaking to MaltaToday, Calleja explained that following this week's events in which both major political parties discussed equality issues, "it is clear that Labour recognises more gay rights while the Nationalist Party has consistently said no to more gay rights, as can be seen in the IVF and Cohabitation bills which were recently launched."

According to Calleja, out of the two big parties, the Labour Party is the closest to the movement's position on equality.

MGRM have been calling for full equality including adoption, IVF and same-sex marriage, on a par with marriage between heterosexuals.

On Tuesday, the MGRM coordinator was a guest at Labour's congress which is set to provide the party with an outline for its political manifesto. On equality and diversity, the Labour congress approved a vague motion calling for a free society.

In contrast, during a political debate organised by the Nationalist Party in Floriana as part of the Independence festivities, sections of the audience booed when Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi was asked whether he was ready to recognise gay couples as families, after incurring the wrath of the gay community over the cohabitation bill. Gonzi however told his supporters to respect, saying "other people's personal aspirations... everybody has their dignity."

The PN leader pointed out that marriage "is for a man and a woman," to his audience's applause. "But this doesn't mean we shouldn't recognise other forms of families."

Gabi Calleja explained that although she was not present for the PN debate "it is clear that the PN has a different message on gay rights," while Labour has taken a different direction and accepted the rights of same-sex couples.

"The impression I have is that Labour recognises the need for more rights and on the other hand the Nationalist Party has been consistent in saying no to more rights for same-sex couples," she said.

While noting that gay persons do not only vote on equality issues, Calleja added that in the run-up to the looming election, "the gay community must weigh up its options and choose wisely."

Asked whether the difference between the two major parties is a result of ideological differences or a result of political expediency, Calleja said: "I do not know what the motivations are, but Labour is acknowledging the importance of equality issues."

As equality is increasingly becoming a mainstream issue, the two major parties have stepped up their efforts to attract the gay vote. While the PN struggles to find a balance between its own mixture of confessional conservatism and liberalism, Labour has been non-committal and mainly rests on its leader's stands.

Unlike the Labour Party, which shied away from taking a position on divorce, giving its leader Joseph Muscat a free reign to push his "progressive" agenda by taking a personal stand in favour of divorce, the PN had taken a stand against divorce.

After the divorce referendum in 2011, the PN tried to come to terms with the new reality in its 'Our Roots' document: which not only accepted the new reality of divorce but anticipated the future by coming close to supporting the concept of State recognition of same-sex couples.

The document loosely states, "the State cannot close its eyes to this issue and has to legislate wherever necessary to establish the rights and duties of those living in cohabitation, whether they are heterosexual or homosexual."

On gay rights Labour has so far said that it supports the recognition of same-sex relationships. In a recent interview with MaltaToday, Joseph Muscat hinted that his own party's proposals for civil unions do not actually exclude the possibility of adoption by gay couples.

But the party's concrete proposals on the matter are yet unknown and the guide-line adopted during the party's congress this week gave no indication of what direction the party will take.

Gabi Calleja said MGRM has held discussions with all political parties, including Alternattiva Demokratika, which fully endorsed MGRM's position regarding marriage equality and parenthood.

"Ideologically, Alternattiva Demokratika are the closest to MGRM as they full endorsed our positions, however one must keep in mind the limited political strength the Greens have in Malta," Calleja said.

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