Parliament starts discussing Civil Liberties Act.
Tuesday 22 October 2013 - 18:52 by Miriam Dalli
Civil Liberties Minister Helena Dalli
Civil Liberties Minister Helena Dalli looked forward to a lengthy debate on civil unions, both in parliament and outside.
Addressing Parliament during the second reading of the Civil Liberties Act, Dalli said she felt "extremely happy and proud" to be able to discuss the Bill.
"We are in no hurry to implement it. Contrary to what has been said, I look forward to a lengthy debate both inside parliament and outside and I urge as many people as possible to join in the discussion," Dalli said.
The minister insisted that a strong debate would reflect that the Maltese society was "a nation which cared about minorities".
The Civil Liberties Act, she said, was a government commitment to continue "breaking down barriers".
"This is not about gay rights but about human rights. We want to live in a society where every individual enjoys the same rights, with an equal access to opportunities. The point of departure being that we are all human beings," Dalli said.
According to a European survey on personal discrimination, Malta was the seventh highest country in which respondents reported having faced discrimination because of their sexual orientation.
"This is shameful and unacceptable," Dalli said, while adding it was deplorable that same sex couples were not given the same privileges and rights to heterosexual couples. "This is what this new civil law is aiming to amend."
The minister did not hold back from berating the Opposition "for failing to put into effect the transgender bill".
"And then the opposition is surprised that they aren't included on the LGBT consulting council," she added, while urging the MPs on the Opposition benches - in a motherly voice - to "grow up".
Referring to the case of Joanne Cassar - who following the election of a Labour government retracted her case to the European Court of Human Rights after she was denied the right to marry despite having a change in gender identity legally recognised - Dalli said the Nationalist administration's failure to amend laws had caused suffering to many.
On the Church's position on civil unions, Dalli said their reaction stood by their belief that marriage was solely meant to be between a man and a woman.
"But this is a Civil Union and has nothing to do with religion," she said.
Dalli further said that the New Ways Ministry - that attempts to build bridges between the LGBT community and the catholic world stated - said that her position was more in line with what Pope Francis was saying than with how the Maltese Church was dealing with the issue.
"Some people are worried that we may end up in hell. But this bill aims at pulling people who have been discriminated all their lives from the hell that they live in. The basis of this legislation is to start to create a society that is equal for all and not for some."
Questioning whether or not the opposition stood behind their first statement that this was a historical step or in their later statement that the bill was confusing, Dalli said the opposition had to make up their mind.
"Experts such as Neil Falzon, a gay activist himself who has just got married, are very happy with the resulting bill who said this was as close to what we wanted and what the government would want."