Thursday, 27 March 2014, 08:50, UPDATE 1
The government’s plans to introduce the civil unions bill which includes the possibility of gay adoptions have been stalled because President George Abela has told Prime Minister Joseph Muscat that he does not want to sign it.
When Dr Abela met people undergoing rehabilitation for drug abuse at San Blas on Wednesday evening, The Malta Independent approached President Abela for a confirmation of reports reaching our newsroom but President Abela did not want to comment. Dr Abela was visibly uncomfortable when questions on the civil union bill were put to him.
Sources had told this media house some days ago that Dr Abela is refusing to sign the Civil Unions Bill, commonly referred to as the gay marriage bill, on moral grounds. This led The Malta Independent to ask President-designate Coleiro Preca about her intentions to sign the Civil Unions Bill two weeks ago, and she had said that she had no problem with that.
It is not clear whether Ms Coleiro Preca feels comfortable voting for the same bill as an MP.
President Abela’s term in office expires on 4 April when he will be replaced by Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, and the government had to postpone the bill until the changeover takes place.
The bill will lead to gay couples having equal rights as married heterosexual couples, including the right to adopt children.
Sources told The Malta Independent that whereas the government had previously been very energetic on the passing of the bill, it had to slow down the process because of Dr Abela’s refusal. The bill has been shelved for nearly two months.
The Prime Minister was asked to comment on this claims this morning, but he refused to comment, stating that he would not divulge what Dr Abela said in confidence.
However, Dr Muscat also insisted that the process was on schedule, and that the law would be implemented “in the coming weeks.”
Dr Muscat noted that the bill was discussed extensively in committee stage after the opposition asked for various people to be heard, but the bill passed committee stage four weeks ago, and is only awaiting its third reading – a process which is effectively a formality – to pass through parliament.
Asked to comment, however, the Prime Minister said that it was normal for bills to await their third reading for so long.
Dr Muscat was also asked whether he was embarrassed at the President’s refusal to sign his law, but said that this was the journalist’s own discussion. He repeatedly asserted that he could not speak on the President’s behalf, and that his discussions with Dr Abela – on many issues – would remain between the two.