Thursday, 31 October 2013

Times: Confusion in civil unions
Tuesday, October 29, 2013, 00:01 by Austin Sammut

With the end of summer (or is it?) and the boring months with virtually nothing to write about, things have started bubbling again.

Let’s not go for the Budget yet. A bit early. But certainly one topic at the top of the agenda is this blessed Civil Union Bill.

Let me get straight to the point. This union is marriage and no less. The same rules of marriage apply – bigamy, divorce, separation, annulment, maintenance and so on. So why not just amend the existing Marriage Act and get on with it?

I followed last Friday’s discussion on Xarabank with the frank, but solid (and humble) participation of my good friend and colleague Bishop Charles Scicluna. The Bishop and all of us, within and without the studio, were truly confused.

Nobody could explain the difference between the proposed civil union and marriage, except for a pathetic explanation (sic) from Miriam Dalli that the difference was merely symbolic and it was civil union that the Labour Party had proposed in its electoral manifesto, so there! So, in effect, we are going to introduce gay marriages but we do not have the courage to say so, it seems. Now don’t take this to necessarily mean that I am against civil union on principle.

In fact, I am in favour of regulating any union and this to protect the rights of a couple, heterosexual or gay, in terms of habitation, maintenance, succession and so on. What I find funny is that civil union can be entered into by heterosexual couples. Why don’t they just get married?

These union rights should also be protected in terms of cohabiting heterosexual couples and this could easily have been incorporated into the Civil Union Bill. All this should have been regulated and protected decades ago.

Were the strength of the Church (for which Bishop Scicluna apologised) and the ultra-conservative Nationalist leadership responsible for keeping us back? We now have a remarkably more liberal Nationalist leadership (with exceptions, of course).

But hold your horses. I will accept a civil union as I did not accept divorce but I will not accept joint adoption by same-sex couples. The inherent dangers to a child’s well-being are enormous, not to say horrifying. It could be traumatic.

Let a child be adopted by one of the partners and be looked after, and indeed loved, by both. But there will be one parent. Take the case of a single parent or a widow/er who enters a union. The child will be his/hers and will remain so but will de facto join the “family”. Such child will refer to a father or a mother but not “my mothers or my fathers”, for goodness sake. This would verge on the ridiculous. The reaction would be what!

But let’s move on. Last week’s EU summit was a let-down for Malta. Not totally but largely. The “threats” and stamping of feet that our Prime Minister delivered in recent months seem to have borne no fruit. He came back from Brussels with a Council decision to recommend to the Commission to come out with some sort of plan in the coming December summit – in effect, empty-handed.

Where has this got us? Nowhere, at least so far. We’ll just have to be patient and wait.

There is no doubt that the awareness is there but no concrete action yet. The Prime Minister should know that all Malta (Tagħna Lkoll) is behind him and he should keep on insisting for our interests but he must not play the macho.

Haste is not always the best way forward

The immigration (I say irregular) issue will keep going. May I advise him to look at Malta’s interests before vetoing EU decisions or legislation. It may very well backfire fiercely.

He should take one issue at a time. By all means, let him continue to take a stand (from which he has already retreated on a number of occasions, by the way), but he must not throw caution to the wind.

He is not dealing with Malta Tagħna Lkoll (or a part of it at least) but with a very powerful body. Haste is not always the best way forward.

Which is what haste is with regard to the sale of our citizenship and, in effect, our soul. This is a very serious decision. Not only because a mere €650,00 is a pittance for very wealthy individuals but because we are making fools of ourselves (oh, the Maltese expression is so much nicer!).

We are rendering our country a veritable brothel and descending to the level of a Caribbean tax haven. In fact, we don’t need these people.

We are further denting the structure that we built in 1994 to transform Malta from an offshore to an onshore jurisdiction.

Has the EU been consulted? Has it approved the sale of what basically amounts to EU passports?

Let’s not be so cheap just to show off vis-à-vis having money (of sorts).

And, what’s more, the system is not transparent. We will not know who these individuals are.

This is a big mistake like so many others that have been committed in just under six months.

Whatever next?

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