The Malta Independent 9 December 2019, Monday

Gay marriage: how do newly elected PN MPs feel about replacing text with gender neutral terms?

Helena Grech Tuesday, 4 July 2017, 12:30 Last update: about 3 years ago

Following rumours surfacing that a number of Nationalist Party MPs asked for a free vote come Wednesday on the Marriage Equality Bill which would legally recognise homosexual marriage, The Malta Independent contacted newly elected PN MPs to gauge their stance on the issue.

Members of the PN, most notably spokesperson for Civil Liberties David Agius, is convinced that through the wording used in the Marriage Equality Bill, any lobby group can stop Mother’s Day from being celebrated by claiming discrimination.

The PN has already made it clear that it will vote in favour of the Marriage Equality Bill, however, the speech given in Parliament last week by Mr Agius opened a window into some of the issues that the PN might have with the passing of this bill. The party has taken umbrage at the proposed removal of terms such as mother, father, husband and wife, which are to be replaced by gender neutral terms such as ‘spouse’ and ‘parent’.

After outgoing PN Leader Simon Busuttil announced that all of the Opposition MPs will be voting in favour of the Bill, rumours were circulating that several MPs asked for a free vote on the issue, meaning that they asked to be given permission not to toe the party line.

This newsroom reached out to newly elected MPs Ivan Bartolo, Karol Aquilina, Jean-Pierre Debono, Hermann Schiavone and Maria Deguara to see whether they fall within the more liberal or more conservative PN camp with regards to the issue at hand.

Bartolo and Aquilina promptly replied that they are both in favour of gay marriage, however they both personally share the PN’s view that the wording of mother, father, husband and wife should remain in the text of the Marriage Equality Bill.

Bartolo stressed that he is wholeheartedly in favour of gay marriage, however the wording as is being proposed should be discussed further.

Aqulina wrote to say that he “fully agree[s] with the Party’s position in favour of the gay marriage bill”.

“As Opposition MPs we will present amendments to it in a bid to retain the terms mother, father, husband and wife. This will ensure equality for all,” he added. Debono and Deguara also intimated the same sentiment, saying they agree with the party's position and presenting amendments to retain the gender specific terminology. 

Schiavone wrote to say that he has no comments to make at this stage, and that his intervention in Parliament on Wednesday will be when his position is made clear.

 

The PN is known to be far more divided in its views among its various members compared with the Labour Party, as can be seen from the alleged request for a free vote on the issue.

The Marriage Equality Bill has been sitting on the shelf since before the June 3 snap election was called, and Prime Minister Joseph Muscat made his wishes known at the earliest that this hurdle would be the first to be tackled once Parliament resumed.

Both major parties had included gay marriage in their electoral manifesto, giving Parliament a strong mandate to pass the law with both parties expected to vote in favour even in the Bill’s current form.

The PN Whip hopes, however, that the changes proposed by the PN are included in committee stage.

But what will happen if the PN minority does not manage to convince the seven seat Labour Party government majority?

David Agius said that he will personally commit to have these changes removed by a future PN government. “Let me be clear. We will not revoke the Marriage Equality Bill. Of course not. But we will make sure that these definitions are expanded not reduced.”

The PN is proposing that instead of removing ‘mother’ and ‘father’ from the bill, they are added with ‘parent’. Instead of removing ‘husband’ and ‘wife’, they are included with ‘spouse’.

The vote on the gay marriage bill will be taken tomorrow, Wednesday 5 July.

 

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