The Malta Independent 25 November 2017, Saturday

Malta 15th European country to legalise gay marriage, Edwin Vassallo votes against

Helena Grech Wednesday, 12 July 2017, 19:32 Last update: about 5 months ago

Malta has joined 14 other European countries to legalise gay marriage this evening in Parliament after MPs from both sides of the House voted in favour of the Marriage Equality Act.

The Marriage Equality Act legally recognises homosexual marriage by “modernis[ing] the institution of marriage,” as described by equality Minister Helena Dalli.

Prime Minister Muscat asked to break away from Parliamentary procedure and have each MP get up to declare their vote individually. This was not accepted by Outgoing PN leader Simon Busuttil, adding that the PN will be voting in favour.

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In comments to the press, when asked what message the Prime Minister has for people like who are opposed to gay marriage, he said that in 1973, when the country decriminalised homosexuality, the public said that the move would be a disaster. He said that the same story took place for divorce and the civil union act. 

With reference to the decision by PN MP Edwin Vassallo to vote against the Bill, he Muscat stressed that everybody's beliefs and choices should be respected.

"This is a natural progression, a natural evolution of society." Muscat added that this was an important move for equality, and most importantly today's children do not have to feel ashamed or hide their sexual orientation and enjoy the same rights as everybody else.

Nationalist Party MP Edwin Vassallo, who made waves by voting against the Bill at the second reading, stood up to say that he again would be voting against at this final stage:

“I spent the last days trying to find a compromise in my mind that while I declare that I am against, I am voting in favour in order to toe the party line. I understand the separation between the state and church, but I believe that if a liberal person comes into Parliament, and pushes their beliefs that does not mean that as a Christian politician, I should not push my beliefs.

“With respect to my beliefs, the people, the Parliament and society I will be voting against this law.”

When asked by The Malta Independent whether Vassallo’s decision to vote against the Party Whip and the Bill exposes a split within the PN, Busuttil said that it is no secret that not everybody in Malta is in favour of the Bill.

He appealed for everybody to respect each other’s beliefs, adding that it would be a shame if in society we cannot respect divergent views.

The Act makes it legal for any and all consenting adult couples, be it of the same sex or different, have the right to enter into a marriage. The draft bill is not a new piece of legislation in itself, but seeks to amend many clauses throughout Malta’s laws.

One of the main bones of contention was the government’s proposal to replace all gender specific terminology, such as ‘mother’, ‘father’, ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ into gender neutral terminology such as ‘parent’ and ‘spouse’.

The Nationalist Party had presented some 80 amendments to the Bill in order to retain the gender specific terminology but also add clauses so that homosexual married coupled are recognised by law. The government rejected all amendments calling them ‘discriminatory’, and stressing that the way in which the Bill was drafted closes any legal loopholes that could otherwise arise.

Commentry by Malta Gay Rights Movement leader Gabby Calleja:

Despite this, outgoing PN leader Simon Busuttil declared that his party would be voting in favour of the Bill, keeping in faith with the party’s electoral manifesto, and that it would not be giving MPs a free vote. This was decided on the basis that candidates contesting the elections all knew that gay marriage was on the party’s manifesto.

Nationalist MP Edwin Vassallo shocked his fellow MPs and the public when he declared in Parliament, during the Bill’s second reading, that he does not agree with the way in which the Bill has been proposed and voted against it.

Voting takes place at the second reading stage, the committee stage, and then a final one which is called the third reading. This evening Parliament carried out the third reading, and voted gay marriage into law.

On Tuesday evening, some 150-200 protestors gathered outside Parliament to voice their opposition to gay marriage, saying that marriage should be between a man and a woman. Protestors held that they wanted the public to know that not everybody in Malta is in favour of gay marriage.

Tonight a celebration is underway with people descending upon Castille square on this historic day. The celebrations have been organised by the government. Two years ago when Parliament voted in favour of Civil Unions and gay adoption, celebrations where held outside the old Parliament building in St George’s Square.

Photos and video: Michael Camilleri and Baskal Mallia 

 

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