The saga of the new law that finally brought equality to the concept of marriage in Malta was beset by a whole series of parliamentary exchanges that left many people perplexed, particularly those who tried to undertand where stood the new Opposition in the new legislature.
Bearing in mind that this historic achievement was the first law enacted by a new Labour Government just given yet another massive mandate by the electorate, speaks volumes. The issue had been presented as anoutstanding point of interest in the party’s 2017 manifesto and clearly promised as its next liberal salvo.
After all, it was the continuation of a policy started immediately after the 2013 general election when the first Joseph Muscat government took it upon itself to right the centuries-old wrongs of Maltese society. It was made pretty obvious from the outset equality has no corners and the House of Representatives was to motivate this step-by-step process, based, one should add, on long-established European Union principles.
The initiative in favour of equality was aimed at bringing Maltese society out of its cosy, unfair shell and into a liberating period where equality is a shared experience by all citizens, whatever their sexual orientation, social status and financial means. The State declared it was willing to move with determination as much as respect, with a sense of destiny as much as a sense of realisation.
Circumstances had changed drastically since the mid-70s when, again a Labour government, had taken the bull by the horns to introduce civil marriage and so finally distinguish between Church and State. Against a surging wall of protest, the law was eventually passed and today it almost feels silly to even talk about it. No one has since been forced to choose one from the other and Maltese society has never looked back.
The next cog to help activate the liberal mechanism was installed during the Divorce Referendum of2011 when Labour, then in Opposition, joined forces with the liberal elements ofa moribund Gonzi Government to introduce this important civil right thanks to a strong “yes” majority.
The wheels started turning vigorously after 2013 when the issue was brought up of a civil union for same-sex couples. Again, Maltese citizens had to watch the antics of an obviously divided Opposition seeking to project a non-committal stance, much to the chagrin of people and their families who believe love and commitment to it cannot be restricted to just one kind, overthis option open to all citizens. The civil union law was eventually approved by the Maltese Parliament, with the Nationalist Opposition incredibly abstaining. It is, indeed, no surprise to hear high-profile PN exponents today publicly regretting that decision.
A belief in equality is not a matter of convenience as we unfortunately ended up seeing in Parliament a few weeks back over the Equality in Marriage law, but a question of conviction. This major divide in the position of the two parties represented in the House was again too evident to overlook.
The success of Government’s new positive foray into the vast field of civil liberties offered a strong sense of pride to me in particular. As a member of the LIGBTI+Rights Intergroup within the European Parliament, I knew Malta had just made yet another historic stride towards equality and is now not only one of 15 EU member states to have same-sex marriage, but also stays on top of the list as far as gay rights are concerned in the whole world.
The LGBTI Intergroup is the largest of the European Parliament’s 28 groups. Within it, participating MEPs,hailing from all the political groups of the European Parliament, are expected to take a positive stance on LGBTI issues when they draft reports or amendments, when they vote, and when they deal with constituency affairs. My carrying the national flag has always been done with pride. Carrying the flag inside this cross-party group is, today, also a source of joy … or should I say gay pride!
The Malta Independent 28.07.2017