16.12.2013 by David Gold
On Monday, 16 December 2013, the Parliament of Malta approved, for the second time, a bill providing for the legalization of civil unions for all consenting adult couples, no matter their gender, no matter their sexual orientation.
The rule in the Parliament of Malta is to examine, debate, and vote on each bill a maximum of three times. If a bill has been approved once, it stands a chance of being approved a second and third time. If it has been approved twice, it is virtually certain to be approved a third time.
The bill grants all couples contracting a civil union all the benefits, privileges, protections, and rights (including the right to adopt children) that Maltese law now and in the future grants different-gender couples having contracted a civil marriage.
Thus, civil unions and civil marriages will be equal in the eyes of the law, the only difference between them being a slight terminological one, made necessary by the need to weaken the opposition of certain Roman Catholic Maltese (about 96 percent of the population of Malta consists of baptized Roman Catholics) who objected to application of the word marriage to anything other than the legally recognized union of a woman and a man.
Making that minor terminological concession to opponents of the bill was a tiny price to pay in return for an enormous victory in a very Roman Catholic country: full equality, in the eyes of the law, between different- and same-gender couples whose union the state recognizes.
It is not impossible that, in coming years, after a good number of Maltese realize that legalization of gender-neutral civil unions has not caused the sky to fall or civilization to come to an end in Malta, opposition to application of the word marriage to same-gender civil unions will dwindle to such an extent that the country's parliament will feel comfortable converting all civil unions to civil marriages, thereby removing that small terminological distinction.