Saturday, 6 April 2013

Times: Minister sets ball rolling for Civil Union Bill
Thursday, April 4, 2013 by Sarah Carabott

Civil Liberties Minister Helena Dalli (left) alongside Joanne Cassar. Photo: Paul Spiteri Lucas

A consultative committee to establish the best way forward for the introduction of civil unions will be set up, according to Civil Liberties Minister Helena Dalli.

The committee would include researchers and stakeholders from the LGBT community, including parents and NGOs who could provide the best advice on how to draft the Civil Union Bill, Dr Dalli explained.

Speaking at a news conference on an out-of-court settlement with Joanne Cassar, who was banned from marrying after gender reassignment surgery, Dr Dalli also announced that Ms Cassar would be compensated €10,000 for damages she had incurred during the case.

Dr Dalli said the Government had reached an agreement with Ms Cassar to drop the case she had taken to the Europ-ean Court of Human Rights.

The 31-year-old hairdresser had a pending case against the previous Government for breaching her rights by refusing to issue marriage banns after her gender was changed to female on her birth certificate.

Ms Cassar had surgery in the UK when she was 22 after being diagnosed with gender identity disorder, a conflict between a person’s physical gender and self-identification.

In May 2011 the Constitutional Court held that although Ms Cassar’s rights had been breached, this had been due to shortcomings in the law to cater for some form of partnership for people in her situation.

Dr Dalli said the Government would move amendments to the Marriage Act, granting those who underwent gender reassignment surgery the right to marry.

She said the change in law would ease the suffering of people in Ms Cassar’s situation. However, it would not change people’s attitude overnight.

Ms Cassar, who attended the press conference, said the news was a ray of hope after the storm she had gone through.

“The biggest heartache was reading Joanne v Malta in the Court notifications. I now feel Malta, my country, has accepted me as one of its daughters.”

Mario Gerada, a member of Drachma, a Catholic group of LGBT, welcomed the “very positive news”. He agreed that the law on its own was not enough and policy and culture had to work hand in hand.

The law could have an impact on culture, especially when people received invitations from their LGBT friends and relatives to join them in celebrating their union with the person they loved.

The Malta Gay Rights Movement and Aditus Foundation also welcomed the Government’s decision to drop its objection to Ms Cassar’s claim to the right to marry.

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