Friday, 31 May 2013

Independent: Gay Marriage a 'Step too Far' for Malta
Monday, 20 May 2013, 08:19 , by John Cordina

Malta should ensure that same-sex couples enjoy the same rights of heterosexual couples, but gay marriage may be a step too far for Malta, the Today Public Policy Institute says.

Instead, and for that reason, the think-tank is calling for the introduction of civil partnerships and civil unions. However, it also insists that same-sex couples should be able to adopt children.

“Although there are strong arguments to be made for the concept of same-sex marriages... it is concluded that it would be both premature and impolitic in the Maltese context to seek to introduce them here at this time,” the TPPI says in a report which credits chairman Martin Scicluna as its lead author.

But the think-tank is adamant that a simple cohabitation law will not suffice, pointing out that since it merely acknowledges the “physical presence of two persons”, it is by definition inferior to either marriage or civil partnership.

Another contentious issue concerning same-sex couples is children, and the TPPI calls for a longitudinal scientific study looking into same-sex parenting, arguing that no irrevocable long-term decision should be taken until then.

But it also insists that same-sex couples should not be denied the right to adopt, as long as they are found to be suitable parents.

“All prospective adoptive parents, whether a couple or single, gay or heterosexual, should undergo the same process and be allowed to adopt if they show themselves to be suitable,” the TPPI notes in its report.

In fact, the civil unions proposed by the TPPI would effectively be a carbon copy of marriages, with civil partners having the same rights – and responsibilities – of spouses. As a result, the think-tank argues that civil unions should not be provided to opposite-sex couples, since there would be no reason for choosing them over marriage.

According to the report, civil unions should be dissolved through a process akin to divorce, under the same conditions divorce is granted in Malta – to couples who have lived apart for at least four years in the preceding five. The annulment of civil unions should also be possible where applicable.

The TPPI believes that the introduction of civil unions would provide benefits that go beyond the rights conferred to civil partners.

It points out that their availability would encourage stable relationships and reduce the likelihood of relationship breakdown, which would also be beneficial to other relatives – particularly dependent children – they support and care for.

Legitimising same-sex couples would also have a positive impact on social attitudes, “reducing homophobia and discrimination and building a safer and more inclusive society” according to the think-tank.

The report, which can be found on the institute’s website, was presented to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on the occasion of the International Day against Homophobia, which is held every year on 17 May: the World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from the International Classification of Diseases on that day in 1990.

ILGA-Europe, the European arm of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans & Intersex Association (ILGA), marked the occasion by publishing its annual review of the human rights situation faced by LGBT people in Europe.

The report ranks European countries on the basis of the rights enjoyed by LGBT people. A 100 per cent score marks full equality and respect for human rights, but the best European score is just 77 per cent, obtained by the United Kingdom.

Malta is significantly behind at 35 per cent, a score that places it behind most western European countries – Italy, with a score of 19 per cent, is one particular exception. The situation is generally worse in Eastern Europe: Russia’s score is just seven per cent.

While ILGA-Europe’s report does highlight the need for improvement, it also recognises that some progress has been made through the extension of the remit of the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality to cover sexual orientation and gender identity issues, as well as the extension of the scope of hate crime legislation.

On the other hand, it is critical of the IVF law – the Embryo Protection Act – which expressly excludes lesbian couples and single women from access to fertility treatment, as well as the Cohabitation Bill that had been proposed by the previous government.

Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice calls for respect for LGBT persons

Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice yesterday reacted to the findings of a European survey involving over 93,000 LGBT persons carried out by the European Union's Fundamental Rights Agency to coincide with the International Day against Homophobia.

Respondents were asked about their experiences of discrimination, violence and harassment at work, in education, healthcare, social services and in public places. The findings show that many LGBT persons all over Europe, including Malta, live in isolation or fear, and experience discrimination and even violence.

The Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, inspired by the clear message of the Gospel and by the shared values of fundamental human rights:
  • condemns all acts of unjust discrimination and violence, which harm the individuals concerned and society at large; 
  • urges the relevant authorities to take all the necessary steps at the level of legislation, policy and public awareness initiatives to ensure that every person is respected regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, gender or age;
  • renews its commitment to work with others for a just and inclusive society that actively fights all forms of unjust discrimination.

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