Mar 11, 2014

Civil Unions Bill Update

It’s been a temperamental eight months as far as the Civil Unions bill is concerned. 
 One might say I witnessed its conception when we began to draft it in the LGBT 
consultative council meetings. These meetings too were rife with disagreement and 
heated debate, just like the meetings of the House Committee for the consideration 
of Bills, but finally we managed to come up with something we were all be happy 
with and we presented it to the Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and 
Civil Liberties Helena Dalli. She in turn presented the bill before Parliament along 
with a fiery speech which I eagerly listened to in the kitchen over my radio, in a
scene that had an almost nostalgic feeling to it. I imagined that this is what it was 
like for people before television, who would listen to history being made on the radio.
It must be made clear from the get go that that is exactly what this bill represents, a 
turning point in Maltese history. It represents a giant leap towards greater equality 
amongst the inhabitants of this island, and to a lot of us it is akin to Independence or 
Freedom Day. It’s an exhilarating feeling standing on the cusp of such an important 
occasion, waiting for the chains of oppression to be released! Ok so maybe that 
all sounds a tad dramatic but when I think back just five years I would have never 
thought such a forward step would be taken by the government of Malta. Back 
then the talk was about cohabitation or some sort of regularised situation but with 
the bill that is soon to be voted on in Parliament for the third and final time, we are 
going to have “A civil union on par with marriage” to quote the Minister herself. I get 
goosebumps just typing it.

It’s a shame that the bill was met with so much dissent from the opposition, I would 
have much rather had a bill which was unanimously welcomed by all rather than the result of polarised debate, but it seems that the adoption clause in particular created 
an impasse between the government and the opposition. Ultimately I’m happy that 
the government has delivered on this promise sooner rather than later, and I’m glad 
to see that unlike on the divorce issue (Malta was the last country in the world to 
adopt divorce) Malta is going to be one of the early adopters of this civil right, a right 
which is still not respected in far too many countries.

 - Paul Caruana Turner

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