The Malta Independent 14 October 2019, Monday

Parliament to vote to legalise gay marriage today

Helena Grech Wednesday, 12 July 2017, 12:59 Last update: about 3 years ago

Parliament will tonight be holding the final vote on the Marriage Equality Bill that will see the law legally recognise gay marriage after the proposed legislation passed the committee stage on Monday night.

After winning the snap election on 3 June, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that the first priority for Parliament would be to pass gay marriage into law.

The Bill was met with heavy objection after it became known that government was proposing to switch out all gender specific terminology across multiple laws that contain words such as ‘mother’, ‘father’, ‘husband’ and ‘wife’. The Bill as such amends multiple clauses across different sets of laws such as in the Criminal Code, the Code of Civil Organisation and Procedure, The Interpretation Act, The Civil Unions Act and the Civil Code.

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For example, Article 222 of the Criminal Code deals with aggravated bodily harm or slight injury when the act is committed by a mother, father, tutor, or legal guardian.

The terminology of mother and father would be replaced with ‘parents’. The government argues that this will close any legal loopholes that may arise from classing different families separately, and also ensures that no discrimination can take place.

The Nationalist Party (PN) is against the removal of gender specific terminology, accusing the government of being less than transparent through this proposed Bill. The PN argued that while it is fully in favour of gay marriage, as shown by its inclusion in the electoral manifesto, the removal of gender specific terminology was never on the cards, and the public together with the Opposition were not given enough time to debate the implications of the proposed changes.

Several PN MPs remarked that the Bill was rushed through Parliament.

PN Whip and spokesperson for civil liberties David Agius made the argument that lobby groups will now be able to pressure government to remove Mother’s Day, because the notion of ‘mother’ and ‘father’ will no longer be legally recognised. He also argued, alongside other MPs, that children will no longer be able to call their parents ‘mother’ or ‘father’.

This was promptly dismissed by all PL MPs, with Equality Minister Helena Dalli who spearheaded the bill, remarking that children do not call their parent’s ‘mother’ and ‘father’ based on what terminology is included in Maltese law.

PN MP Edwin Vassallo, during a Parliamentary debate announced that he would be voting against the Bill during the second reading. He has been unclear as to his intentions for tonight’s vote but has said, in an interview with The Malta Independent, that if he votes in favour, he will be doing so with his hands tied behind his back.

Outgoing leader Simon Busuttil had already announced that PN MPs would be voting in favour of the Bill despite its objections to the terminology, while a spokesperson for the party also confirmed that MPs would not be given a free vote.

In order for a Bill to be passed into law, it must get presented in Parliament which is known as the first reading. Usually the most lengthy debates take place when the Bill reaches the second reading, and at this stage MPs must vote on whether the proposed law should move on to committee stage, where each clause of the bill is discussed.

Should a Bill pass through the committee stage, it is then taken to Parliament for a final debate and a final debate and vote, known as the third reading.

Rumours surfaced that the Marriage Equality Bill was discussed at Cabinet level rather than within the PL parliamentary group, to the frustration of certain MPs. This newspaper was informed that  Deo Debattista, Anthony Agius Decelis and Anton Refalo were among the concerned MPs.

In comments to this newsroom, Debattista said he has no concerns with the Bill and that it was discussed in “several fora”.  Agius Decelis and Refalo could not be reached by the time of going to print.

At the committee stage, PL MPs shot down each and every amendment put forward by the PN, which primarily sought to retain ‘mother’, ‘father’, ‘husband’ and ‘wife’, while also including other forms of families.

Parliament will today sit down for the third reading which is almost certain to see the Bill passed into law.

Last Monday and yesterday evening a protest was organised by The Malta Coalition for Life, Marriage and Family to ‘protect natural marriage’, according to the official banner of the event.

The protest sought to give a voice to all those who believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman. It is also protesting MPs right to have a free vote on the issue.

Across social media, the coalition’s claim that it wants to ‘protect’ natural marriage has been hotly disputed by many saying that marriage is something created by society and humans. Others have come out in support of more traditional family structures.

In the meantime, celebrations by the LGBT community will be held this evening in Valletta after the vote in Parliament.

 

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