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.

1 comment:

  1. Message from Susan and Zachary:

    Since the bill would legalize same-gender civil marriage in all but name, we may assume that the government feels it best at this time not to call a spade a spade because, if it did, the bill might have less of a chance of being approved (many gay-haters think the word "marriage" is theirs alone to use). It has consequently decided that at this time the better part of wisdom would be, under the guise of civil unions, to grant the country's gays all the benefits, privileges, protections, and rights that civil marriage confers on different-gender couples, that is, all the SUBSTANCE of civil marriage, at the price of forgoing the WORD "marriage" because to insist on that word might result in the defeat of any bill for the legalization of same-gender civil marriage.

    Indeed, ninety-nine one-hundredths of a loaf would be better than no loaf at all (in politics, as in life in general, if you play for all, you may lose all, so that compromise is often the best course). But not to worry -- if the bill for the legalization of same-gender civil unions now before the House of Representatives is passed, it would still be possible for gays to get the last one-hundredth later, say, after a few years, when it became clear to the Maltese people that, despite the dire "predictions" of the cassandras ("Gay marriage spells the end of civilization," etc., etc., etc.), same-gender civil unions have brought no harm to the country.

    In sum, what is important is that Maltese civil unions will be marriages de facto even if not (yet?) marriages de iure.