Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Malta Today: Civil Unions Bill passes committee stage

A number of amendments proposed by the Opposition during this evening’s sitting rejected.
Tuesday 25 February 2014 - 22:23 by a Staff Reporter

In the final sitting of the Consideration of Bills Committee discussing the Civil Unions Bill, the Opposition proposed a number of amendments to the bill, which in their view, would refrain "possible detriments to our society."

The main amendments proposed were intrinsically related to Article (2)(a), which said that a number of articles found in the Marriage Act will apply mutatis mutandis (changing only those things that need to be changed) to the Civil Unions Act. This meant that the same restrictions and allowances found in the Marriage Act would be found to the Civil Unions Act.

The amendments proposed by the Opposition were eventually rejected.

Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Beppe Fenech Adami, argued against the inclusion of particular articles, like Article 3(2), which allows underage people, or else people under tutorship, the possibility to marry, and Article 5(3), which allows an adopter to marry an adoptee whilst the former farmed part of a civil union. "We believe that such a possibility would be damaging to society," Fenech Adami said.

However, Civil Liberties Minister Helena Dalli lamented that such removal of these acts from applying in the civil unions were "discriminatory".

"Our position is clear: the allowances and restrictions which are found in the Marriage Act, should be found in the Civil Unions Act. What the Opposition is proposing is simply discriminatory," she said.

In his concluding arguments, Fenech Adami called for more awareness and preparation for such an introduction: "Please listen more to all opinins; we need to achieve a much more mature point of perception when it comes to such a matter. It's evident that from the opinions and studies that we received in this chamber, there isn't a final yes or no in the matter."

Fenech Adami also described this amendment as a "step in the dark."

"Homosexual couples have the ability to make decisions, and then move out... Children, however do not. Let's take a much more informed step before moving forward," he said.

Reacting, Labour MP Deborah Schembri said family expert Angela Abela had consolidated the government's position: "Profs. Abela consolidated our position even more, when she said that it's not the family structure, ergo the sexual orientation of the parents, which matter; rather, it's other family variables."

"What we are doing is quite simple: We are fighting an automatic discrimination against homosexual couples in both marriages and adoption matters. It will be the board of adoptions who will decide in the child's best interests, and not put an automatic threshold."

The minister went on to point out that former PN PM Lawrence Gonzi had said that such matters should be decided in the best interest of the children, according to what experts said.

"He said that the sexual orientation of the parents does not come into play. There was a pre-election mutual agreement between both sides of the house regarding this. But what is being said today not only goes against the word of a former Prime Minister but is also a political step backwards," Dalli said.

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