Civil Rights Minister Helena Dalli says civil unions law 'on a par' with marriage, will give ‘peace of mind’ to gay couples with children.
Monday 24 February 2014 - 20:35 by Miriam Dalli
Amendments to the law that will allow gay couples to adopt will not result in a "change" of children's right, Civil Rights Minister Helena Dalli told a group of 40 people gathered at St Paul's Bay primary school.
The minister was taking part in a 'Government that listens' activity, as part of a series of meetings organised by the OPM where Cabinet members listen to what the public has to say.
The discussion mostly focused on the introduction of civil unions for both heterosexual and homosexual couples and the amendments to national laws allowing gay couples to adopt. None of those attending spoke against adoptions by gay couples, while only one - the National Council of Women's president Mary Gaerty - said that civil unions should not be equated with marriage.
Dalli confirmed that civil unions will be "on a par" with marriage.
"Children's rights are what they are and nothing will change. The amendments to the law will give a gay couple the opportunity to appear before adoptions board and it will be up to the board to decide whether the couple can adopt, irrespective of its sexual orientation," Dalli said.
Asked whether the Commissioner for Children had been consulted on the matter, Dalli skirted the question: "I assure the Commissioner there will be no changes to the adoption process."
The Minister went on to ask why the Nationalist Opposition had changed its position when its previous leader, Lawrence Gonzi, had said that such matters should be decided in the best interest of the child and not according to the sexual orientation.
Dalli went on to argued that "double scrutiny" would now take place. She said that since today a single gay parent could adopt, the board of adoptions would now be able to scrutinise both parents. "The law also provides peace of mind to the gay couple, who most of them worry on what could happen to the child if the biological parent passes away."
Thanking the Minister for working on the civil unions bills, MGRM coordinator Gabi Calleja expressed her concern over Gaerty's comments, noting that the National Council for Women should represent all women, irrespective of their sexual orientation.
Defending the association, Gaerty argued that the NCW had gay women as its members as well and her comments about civil unions were not made in her capacity as the council's president.
Labour MP and candidate for MEP elections Deborah Schembri said "civil unions will be civil unions, and marriage will remain marriage". She insisted that the same rights will be enjoyed, but will be "distinct". Schembri noted that Professor Angela Abela had referred to international family studies which showed that the sexual orientation of the parents did not have a bearing on the upbringing of the child.
"It's love, time spent with the children and the financial situation of the family that played a part," she said.