Monday, 14 October 2013

Independent: Bill proposes civil unions for gay couples
Monday, 14 October 2013, 10:09 [UPDATE 1 Updates with more details]

The Civil Liberties Law, which will be published later today, will give same-sex couples the same benefits granted by civil marriage, Civil Rights Minister Helena Dalli said this morning.

Parliament will start debating the Bill tomorrow, and the government is hoping for the law to be unanimously approved before the budget is passed.

The law will recognise same sex relationships, just stopping short of calling the relationship a marriage.

It would also allow same-sex couples to adopt children as a couple as, up till now, LGBT persons can only adopt as single parents.

The draft law is based on a Danish law drawn up in the late 80’s, as this model was the closest one to Malta’s needs.

Ms Dalli said that same-sex couples who get civilly married abroad will still be recognised as married in Malta. She acknowledged that this is a loophole similar to the divorce case, and said that it was a positive anomaly that could move things forward.

The moving forward of the Bill was a sign that this government was keeping its promises, unlike the previous administration which had ignored another bill on gender identity put forward by Evarist Bartolo.

Ms Dalli said that laws could be changed with the touch of a pen, however changing a nation’s culture was an altogether different beast. She said that the government would embark on an educational campaign aimed at children and adults alike. She stressed that school programmes would have to be reinforced at home and in society, and this would be helped by educational campaigns, including TV and print adverts.

Everyone should be treated equal, no matter their race or sexual orientation, Ms Dalli said. However she would not say if she personally agreed with same sex marriages. Ms Dalli insisted that the approach this government was taking showed the direction in which she wanted things to head.

Labour MEP candidate Cyrus Engerer, who headed the consultative council that proposed the law, said that the Bill also covered cohabiting couples. He said that the council did not try to reinvent the wheel. It simply wanted a more equal society. The council is made up of members from all LGBT groups and members were unpaid volunteers.

He expressed satisfaction at the way the cabinet had endorsed the Bill, and thanked the Prime Minister for his personal support.

Dr Neil Falzon, who drafted the law, said that the Bill will grant same-sex couples the same rights enjoyed by married people. He insisted that the Bill would interfere with civil or religious marriage. It is a first step towards having equality in marriage, he said.

MGRM head Gabi Calleja welcomed the development and said that the movement had proposed a similar law in its 2009 five-year strategy. “This is the closest we could have got to marriage without calling it that,” she said.

Minister Dalli said that she hoped for consensus from the Opposition and felt that the PN would support this bill. She said that, as a sign of good faith, the government will on Wednesday also present a Private Member’s Bill, put forward by PN MP Claudette Buttigieg, against discrimination based on sexual orientation and race.

She said that she is satisfied that the government and the opposition are moving closer together on the issue, and insisted that politics and pique should not come into the matter. However, according to Mr Engerer, the council had never formally met with the Opposition

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