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02 September 2014

Civil Unions Bill passes through Parliament

 - Monday, 14 April 2014, 21:29 , by John Cordina
Update 1

The Civil Unions Bill has been approved by Parliament in its third and final reading, with all government MPs present voting in favour of the bill while all opposition MPs abstained.

The bill grants same-sex couples with the opportunity to enter legally-recognised civil unions, an arrangement which is effectively equivalent to marriage in all but name. But while there was a political consensus on introducing civil unions, this was lacking on another, more controversial, provision of the law: allowing same-sex couples to jointly apply to adopt children.

It passed with 37 votes in favour – President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca’s old seat is vacant until tomorrow morning’s casual election, while Foreign Minister George Vella is abroad, although government whip Carmelo Abela stressed that the minister wanted to back the bill personally – and none against it, while all 30 opposition MPs abstained from voting.

The bill will become law as soon as it is signed by the President, who has repeatedly confirmed that she had no reservations about doing so in the face of speculation to the contrary.

Ultimately, the bill’s approval came as no surprise given the support of government MPs, but the voting intentions of Nationalist Party MPs were uncertain until the parliamentary group held a press conference shortly before the parliamentary sitting opened.

At the press conference, opposition leader Simon Busuttil said that while the opposition agreed with civil unions, it had reservations on allowing gay couples to adopt children and felt that more studies were necessary. While he acknowledged that there were divergent views within the parliamentary group, it was ultimately decided that opposition MPs should not be given a free vote so that they vote in unison.

Dr Busuttil also asked to explain the opposition’s decision ahead of the vote, starting by noting that MPs would also be voting on a private members’ motion by Claudette Buttigieg amending the Constitution to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation – in line with a proposal included in the PN’s 2013 electoral manifesto. He said that his party wanted to send a clear message that gay people deserved the highest level of protection.

The PN leader stressed that his party agreed with introducing civil unions – if anything, he said, it was regrettable that they were not introduced earlier – and insisted that the bill would have been unanimously approved if it solely concerned such unions.

But he insisted that his party had reservations about gay adoptions and that 80% of society shared them. He said that adoption should have been addressed separately through amendments to the adoption law.

Dr Busuttil said that the opposition’s reservations were not because it felt that gay people could not be good parents, but because government had not prepared society for this step, as evidenced by widespread opposition to it.

In his own, shorter, address, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that the vote would separate the past from the future, and words from actions.

Dr Muscat said that he also hoped that civil unions were introduced earlier, but was prevented from doing so since his party was out of government for the past 25 years. He insisted that the bill had not been presented for political gain but because all government members wholly believed in it.

He insisted that while parliament often reached compromise on practical matters, this was not a case for compromise. If society was not ready for this step, he said, it was up to parliament to explain that it was a step towards a more equal nation.

Dr Buttigieg’s motion then came up for a vote, and since it amended the Constitution, it required the approval of two-thirds of the House of Representatives.

However, this proved not to be a problem: the motion, which was seconded by Civil Liberties Minister Helena Dalli in a show of unity, was approved by all 67 MPs present.

11 comments

Post Comment
G Tonna says:
16 April 2014 08:58

X'misthija!  L-akbar gidba tas-seklu. Kontra n-natura.

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KENNETH GRIMA says:
17 April 2014 16:07

Kontra in-natura huwa ic-celebat u r-regoli tal-knisja li taghmel parti minnha.

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C Galea says:
15 April 2014 12:44

Re
G Tonna

Please explain what do you mean by : What a Shame? You would not be judgemental by any chance? As I am led to believe that only god has the right to that sort of an act?

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matthew tanti says:
15 April 2014 11:21

it seems that around 16 other countries, excluding Malta allow gay marriage, and another 14 allow gay adoption. so, according to the supporters of gay marriage and adoption, all these other counrties, including Italy and Germany, are "backward"? kemm intom patetici!

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Evarist Saliba says:
15 April 2014 09:57

I have not kept a record of the results of elections in countries following the enactment of laws establishing same-sex marriages, but the defeat of Zapatero in Spain, and the significant diminished popularity of Holland and Cameron in France and the UK, seem to indicate that the tactic of attracting votes through this policy is misguided.

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Jose Ellul says:
15 April 2014 11:05

Evarist, the PL never had in mind to attract any votes through this legislation as it is obvious it is not a vote-catching measure in our homophobic, super-catholic Malta.  But the PN certainly did when it washed its hands. Clear as crystal.

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G Tonna says:
15 April 2014 03:38

What a shame!

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Jose Ellul says:
15 April 2014 10:04

What is indeed shameful  is that a number of Maltese like you seek to impose your beliefs on a group of fellow-beings, children of God like you and me.  When you talk of shame you're also accusing God of creating them as they are because they had any choice in the matter! 

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G Tonna says:
17 April 2014 18:00

Anthropological regression.

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C Galea says:
15 April 2014 00:59

RE quote from above
"but because government had not prepared society for this step, as evidenced by widespread opposition to it." Dear Mr Busuttil, why did you stop short of admitting that the past 25 years of P N  RULING OF MALTA did not include the education that you so bluntly feel is still required to educate the Maltese public? How very petty and very selfish of your party ruling? The L P may or may have not taken this onboard for political reasons, but what a act, what guts, what counts here is the fairness that has been missing in Malta for a long time and all I can say is Thanks to each and every individual in the Labour party for what they have done  to enhance Malta,s face in the world and bring into a much needed ne era. You Mr Busutil feeling sorry about the facts that your party is still out of touch is no way to run a country.

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Jose Ellul says:
14 April 2014 22:02

Dr Buttigieg? Since when?

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