Monday, June 26, 2017, 20:55
Two hundred gay couples have married since the civil union legislation, two gay couples have adopted while five others are in the process of adopting, and 70 persons applied to formally declare their gender identity, according to information which emerged during tonight’s parliamentary debate on the Marriage Act and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill.
Introducing the second reading of the Bill, Equality Minister Helena Dalli said the rights of minorities could not be discriminated against and the Bill would allow the LBGTIQ community to live openly, unashamedly and without fear of being bullied. In the eyes of the government, each couple was equally valid.
The Bill would allow individuals marrying civilly to do so by means of a ceremony of their own choice, a change proposed to her by the late Ramon Casha, to whom she dedicated the clause. It would, however, would have no effect on religious marriages or ceremonies, further protecting the rights of religious institutions.
Shadow Minister David Agius criticised the government for the lack of consultation with the Opposition but reiterated that the party would not put any obstacles in the way of equality for all in marriage. However, he vehemently condemned the government for changing the terms “husband” and “wife” to “spouse”. This was absurd, he said, and he gave notice that the Opposition would be moving amendments in committee stage.
Opposition Deputy Leader Mario de Marco said that, while the Opposition’s abstention on civil unions had been the hardest day of his political career, voting in favour of the Marriage Equality Bill would be one of the easiest.
Apologising for the PN’s failure to fully acknowledge and respect the needs of the LGBTIQ community in the past, he said the Bill was a reflection of the need for laws to change in order to reflect social changes. Those who were concerned that the Bill went against his party’s fundamental principles were forgetting that Christian Democratic politics was founded upon the rights of all individuals, rights which all laws must respect.
Similar arguments were put forward by Opposition MPs Karl Gouder, Marlene Farrugia, and Therese Comodini Cachia, the latter warning against alienating those who believed that the word “marriage” should be reserved for unions between men and women. Together with Mr Gouder, she said that while almost all agreed with the spirit of the law, unnecessary controversy had been created with the removal of the words husband, wife, mother, and father from the Civil Code.
Clyde Puli ended the evening’s debate by asking for further clarification of the implications that the changes introduced by the law would have on the Embryo Protection Act.
The Marriage Equality Bill represents a long list of changes to existing laws which would ensure that references to husband, wife, mother and father become gender neutral, among other things.
The stated aim of the Bill, piloted by Ms Helena Dalli, is to “modernise the institution of marriage” so that all consenting adult couples would have the right to enter into marriage, with all the obligations this brings about.
So what's this gay marriage bill all about?
The Bill has generated strong emotions, with a flurry of opinions and Biblical quotes all through the day on the Times of Malta. The Partit Demokratiku said its elected MPs, Marlene Farrugia and Godfrey Farrugia, will be unequivocally voting in favour of proposed amendments to the Civil Marriage Act of 1975. But The Sunday Times of Malta yesterday reported that a number of disgruntled PN MPs wanted a free vote on the matter and were unhappy with the party forcing a bloc vote on the issue.
Although sitting PN MPs preferred anonomity, a number of its former members have no such qualms. Former Minister Tonio Fenech has slammed the PN decision as a "lose-lose" one, whose stance is shared by former PN treasurer Antoine Borg, who was pipped to a seventh district parliamentary seat by the Democratic Party's Godfrey Farrugia.
Doctor and former PN MP Michael Asciak has also argued in favour of a free vote on Facebook, adding that the party had not "allowed ethical space for discussion" about the issue.
However, other Nationalist MPs resorted to social media to lend their support for the new law. In a tweet, Claudette Buttigieg said the PN had promised to support gay marriage in its manifesto, and Karl Gouder, an openly-gay MP, wrote on Facebook: "I am proud to form part of a party which has moved on with the times and truly values that everyone under the sun is, and should be, treated equally."