Monday, February 24, 2014, 20:19
Civil Rights Minister Helena Dalli said this evening that the government was placing civil unions on par with marriage between a man and a woman, arguing that this was in line with Labour's pre-election pledge.
Addressing a public consultation meeting at St Paul's Bay primary school, the civil rights minister said that any move intended to make distinctions between the two, would be tantamount to discrimination.
Dr Dalli was replying to remarks made by the President of the National Council of Women, Mary Gaerty, who said that civil unions should not be treated as marriage, stressing that the latter was only reserved for heterosexual couples.
Her remarks immediately prompted a reaction from the LGBT representative Gaby Calleja, who thanked the government for the support while expressing her disagreement of the views expressed by Ms Gaerty.
Regarding gay adoptions the minister said that the priority should be to safeguard the children rather than to delve into the sexual orientation of the applicants.
She added that the civil unions bill would mean stricter controls on applicants for adoption as both same-sex partners would be scrutinized rather than the present situation in which gay people were applying as single parents
The civil rights minister also announced that a public consultation would be launched in the coming days in preparation of a white paper to widen the remit of the National Council for the Promotion of Equality.
She also announced that the commission was working on a cohabitation bill.
In her opening remarks Dr Dalli gave a brief overview of the initiatives taken by the ministry during the first 10 months of the Labour government. She said that consultation with the civil society and constituted bodies was central to the government, with the Malta Council of Economic and Social Development meeting 24 times as opposed to the six meetings held during the previous year.
Regarding the industrial tribunal she said that the number of pending cases was reduced from 67 to 22, but expressed her disappointment that some of the cases had been dragging for years.
Replying to a question from the floor the minister said that the medicines authority was evaluating a proposal through which the opening hours of pharmacies would be extended, even on Sundays and public holidays.