Tuesday, 15 October 2013
Independent: 'Why aren't we calling it marriage' PN Asks
Tuesday, 15 October 2013, 16:34 , by John Cordina
The bill regulating civil unions for gay couples will grant the right of marriage in all but name, prompting the Nationalist Party’s civil liberties spokesman Claudette Buttigieg to question the need to use a different term.
Contacted by The Malta Independent for comments on the bill, Dr Buttigieg stressed that she could not understand why the proposed civil unions were not called marriage in the first.
She argued that the government was uncomfortable with using the word marriage, and that it was attempting to avoid uproar among opponents of marriage between same-sex couples through the use of the term “civil unions.”
The MP confirmed that she had asked Cyrus Engerer, who leads the consultative council that proposed the law, whether there were any plans to introduce marriage between same-sex couples by the end of this legislature, only to be told that the government lacked the mandate. But she was unconvinced by the argument, stating that it was simply a matter of political convenience.
“At face value, a civil union and a marriage will have the same legal consequences... who is this government fooling? Why aren’t they calling it marriage,” the MP asked.
Dr Buttigieg also pointed out that the government’s timeframe for the approval of the bill appeared to be aiming to reduce the attention given to the issue. While the stated target was for civil unions to be introduced by the end of the year, she observed that the government was now “rushing” through the process to have bill approved before the Budget is read out.
The intention behind this move, according to Dr Buttigieg, is obvious: to ensure that the public’s attention is soon diverted away from the contentious topic.
Dr Buttigieg was reluctant to state her own position on the bill, noting that she was still analysing it and that she was seeking legal advice on a number of issues. But she noted that the bill is set to be the only topic of discussion when the Nationalist Party’s parliamentary group meets tomorrow afternoon.
In past years, the PN’s record on gay rights has been mixed, at best: among other things, the cohabitation bill it had proposed last year was dismissed as insufficient by the Malta Gay Rights Movement.
The election manifesto, however, suggests that the party is seeking to update its policies: it pledged to introduce “civil partnerships” between same-sex couples and a constitutional clause prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which could lead to the nullification of any law permitting such discrimination. Earlier this year, Dr Buttigieg presented a private member’s bill which would implement the proposed constitutional amendment.
Labour itself had pledged to introduce the right to civil unions between same-sex couples, as well as to set up the consultative council now headed by Mr Engerer.
In its own reaction to the bill, made yesterday, Alternattiva Demokratika also argued that the government could have simply called the proposed civil unions marriage, although it also welcomed the move as a step in the right direction.