Monday, 3 September 2012

Times: PL ‘should explain’ cohabitation stance
Sunday, September 2, 2012 by Bertrand Borg

Justice Minister Chris Said has challenged the Opposition leader to openly explain the Labour Party’s position on the recently unveiled draft cohabitation law.

“That is absolutely baseless, especially when one considers that I was the person who pushed through two pieces of homophobia-related legislation in what was probably record time,” the minister said yesterday. The two men crossed swords last week following Dr Muscat’s charge that Dr Said had revealed his “homophobia” by not equating gay couples with families.

Dr Said has overseen the inclusion of homophobia as a motive for hate crime and broadened the remit of Malta’s equality commission to include sexual orientation since assuming the ministerial hot seat last January.

He expressed dismay at the verbal jousting, saying: “When I introduced the Bill, I was speaking within a legal context. Unfortunately, the Labour Party tried to twist my words to score political points.

“It would be good to hear what Dr Muscat thinks about the issue, seeing as he’s already said he’s against gay marriage in the past.”

The PL has yet to comment on the draft Bill, saying the same as when asked to critique the recently launched IVF law – that it would only express an opinion once the Bills were presented in Parliament.

When announcing the Bill, Dr Said had said its provisions reflected “what is acceptable for society”.

The Sunday Times asked the minister what kinds of relationships he believed Maltese society considered acceptable.

He said: “I’m not going to enter into a discussion about what Maltese society believes is or isn’t acceptable – that is something that merits a much broader discussion.

“When I said that the cohabitation Bill reflected what was acceptable for Maltese society, I was referring to the need to safeguard the weaker party in any couple, gay or straight.

“That needed to be addressed, and this Bill does that.”

The Bill will allow cohabiting couples, gay or straight, to register their status. It stops short, however, of giving such cohabitants full recognition on a par with married couples.

This has drawn criticism from the Malta Gay Rights Movement and human rights group Aditus, which said the Bill “promotes the inherent unequal dignity of human beings”.

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