Sunday, 13 April 2014, 11:00 , by Alison Bezzina
Call me negative but, up to a few months ago I was under the assumption that what’s about to happen tomorrow (marriage between gay couples) was never going to happen, at least not in my lifetime.
Until quite recently, I had very little faith that our politicians would ever prioritize this issue, and that even if they did, I thought they would never have found the courage to go ahead with it, at least not in the way they are expected to do tomorrow.
A meeting with Joseph Muscat, three years ago, had continued to discourage any hopes I had for change, because at the time Muscat was ‘not against’ gay marriage personally, but he wasn’t ready to stick his neck out and possibly lose the conservative vote. At the time, he also seemed dead-set against gay adoptions, so needless to say, I walked out of that meeting disappointed, disillusioned and very disheartened.
Whatever happened between then and now is a mystery that I don’t mind never solving because I’m just content knowing that our Prime Minister is capable of changing his mind, and this time certainly not for votes – something I’ve rarely witnessed in politicians on either side.
But it’s still a bittersweet pill that we’ll be swallowing tomorrow because while it’s great to finally see something like this happen despite the objections and the years of apathy, in truth, tomorrow we will be celebrating a basic human right that should have been there ever since we had the gall to call ourselves civilized.
In addition, we’re enacting a law that’s identical to one which already exists, but in order to appease a certain strata of society it is going to be called something other than it should. I refuse to refer to it as anything else but marriage – not gay marriage, not civil union, but marriage, no less no more.
But that’s just me of course.
You might argue ‘what’s in a name?’ and that what’s important is that the same rights and obligations apply. Wrong. A name is very important because language shapes our thoughts; in fact, most of the time, if we don’t have a word for something in our minds it doesn’t exist.
In my opinion, opposing marriage between gay couples in any way, whether in just the name, or because of the adoption clause, or for whatever other reason, is like opposing interracial marriage – in one way or another it is based on the conviction that some people do not deserve the same basic rights as others.
Whether they admitted it or not (and most didn’t), those who opposed interracial marriage in the past believed that one race (white) was superior to another (black). In time, people started to come around and there was also a good section of society who had no objection to white and black people being romantically involved, if they were both consenting adults. But when children were involved, they became worried and had some serious reservations… in the children’s interest.
Initially, some worried that mixing races might result in medical problems, while others worried that ‘mixed’ children would not be accepted by society and would be bullied.
Today, very few will admit that they oppose gay marriage because they think that gays are inferior, and most would say that it’s because of the adoption clause, so let me put their minds at rest – gay couples will not be adopting any time soon. Not because they don’t want to, not because they haven’t been waiting long enough, and not because it’s illegal, but because as things stand, it’s practically impossible.
While this Bill, once enacted into law, will put everyone, whether gay or straight, on an equal footing, in the sense that we will all have the right to apply to adopt, it does not mean that everyone will be approved and matched with a child.
First of all, just like straight couples, gay couples will have to be married for a number of years before they are eligible to apply for adoption. While this in itself is not fair because gay couples didn’t get married before because they couldn’t and not because they wouldn’t, I don’t see how the state can make sure that the relationship of the applicants is a stable one, so I’ll let this slide.
Secondly, even if I somehow get myself to trust that approvals and disapprovals will not be based on the basis of sexual orientation, and that some gay couples will in fact be approved, if things don’t change, even if a gay couple is approved, matching them with a child will not be possible.
The reason is that at the moment Malta has very few adoption agreements with countries that offer international adoptions, and the existing agreements are with countries and orphanages that do not allow gay couples to adopt. So as things stand, Malta might be giving gay couples the right to adopt, but in practice, unless things change, it won’t happen.
Malta has a couple of years to address this before the first applications start being filed, and I’m hoping that, just like I never thought that marriage between gay couples would ever happen, I could be wrong on this one as well, and that we’ll get our act together sometime during my lifetime.