Labour leader says Chris Said’s comments on same-sex partnerships not on the same level as families bonded by marriage are ‘homophobic’.
National Thursday 30 August 2012 - 15:30 by Matthew Vella
“Chris Said’s declaration confirms the government’s institutionalised homophobia” - Labour leader Joseph Muscat.
Updated at 3:32pm with Chris Said's reaction.
Justice minister Chris Said has denied passing homophobic comments during a press conference this week in which he introduced a bill to regulate cohabiting couples, when he said the proposed law would not put same-sex relationships on the same level as families formed in marriages.
Said also said Muscat had failed to pass comment on the cohabitation law, and instead resorted to an erroneous interpretation of his declarations.
Said insisted that in answering questions from the press, he said the law being proposed would not consider gay couples the same as a families in a marriage.
"My credentials in favour of gay and transgender rights cannot be measured by Muscat's sensationalism," Said said, who said he had legislated to increase penalties against hate crimes earlier this year and widening the remit of the Equality Commission.
In a statement, Said said the personal relationship between opposite-sex couples was precious to those who lived this experience. "I also understand that to them this relationship is their family nucleus, even if they are unmarried."
Said however said Muscat had conveniently spun his own interpretation of his comments.
"Muscat should know that Maltese laws do not give a definition to the family. Marriage laws give a clear definition of what marriage is. The cohabitation law does not go into this matter, becuase it regulated cohabitation, for heterosexuals and homosexuals, as a state of fact outside of marriage," Said said.
"This law establishes for the first time the rights and obligations of people who choose to cohabit, principally by safeguarding the weaker party in such a relationship."
The Labour party has described comments by justice minister Chris Said on his bill to regulate cohabitation, as a confirmation of the government's "homophobic policy."
Labour, which in the past said it would legislate in favour of same-sex unions, has so far not commented on the law being proposed by the Nationalist government. But comments by Chris Said, who is anchoring the public consultation on the Bill, saying that cohabitation will not on the same level as the family in a marriage, have provoke the PL's criticism.
"Chris Said's declaration confirms the government's institutionalised homophobia," Labour leader Joseph Muscat said.
"This declaration of principle is unacceptable because the government is institutionalising homophobia. If Lawrence Gonzi agrees with Chris Said, then he is confirming GonziPN's homophobia."
Muscat has long declared his position in favour of the introduction of civil unions for gay couples and this pledge is expected to form part of Labour's manifesto, but the proposal falls short of labelling such unions as 'marriage'.
Muscat said Labour sees a family being constituted irrespectively of people's sexual orientation.
"Earlier on we saw GonziPN's homophobia made clear in the parliamentary debate on the rent laws when the Opposition proposed the extension of such laws for same-sex couples, to which the government put up its opposition."
So far the cohabitation bill, which introduces the civil cohabitation partnership as a registered contract between two people, has disappointed gay rights groups.
The law does not recognise cohabiting partners on the same level as families borne out of marriage under the proposed law. "We do not want to put cohabitation on the same level as a family constituted in marriage. The Bill is based on what the government believes is right and is acceptable to society," Said said when presenting the bill earlier this week.
The Malta Gay Rights Movement said it was "hugely disappointed" as the Bill failed to recognise same-sex couples and their families as civil unions on a par with marriage, the minimum acceptable to them.