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2014 to 2017 in Malta:
Civil Unions and Same-sex Marriages.

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About the Republic of Malta:

It is an island country consisting of three inhabited and along with 18 tiny uninhabited islands which often contain the word "rocks" in their name. It lies to the South of Italy, East of Tunisia, and North of Libya. Malta has an area of 316 square kilometers (122 square miles). This is about 10% of the size of the smallest state in the U.S.: Rhode Island. It has a population of about 475,000, and is one of the most densely populated countries on Earth.

Being located in the center of the Mediterranean, it is a major naval base. It has been ruled in succession by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Greeks, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Sicilians, Aragonese, Knights of St. John, French, and British. It became an independent state in 1974, and is now a member of the British Commonwealth, the United Nations, and the European Union.

Malta's primary religions are Roman Catholicism at 94% along with 1.3% other Christian, and 0.3% Islam. Also, 3.9% are Atheist and 0.6% are Agnostic; these are among the lowest values in Europe. 1 During 2015, It was given the category of "severe discrimination" by the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) in their annual Freedom of Thought Report. The country was given an improved rating "systematic discrimination" in the IHEU's 2016 after Malta repealed its blasphemy law.

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The first step: legalizing civil unions:

Before the 2008 elections, the Malta Gay Rights Movement sent a questionnaire to each of the main political parties in the country, asking them for their policy on legalizing civil unions and/or same-sex marriages. The Movement was disappointed at the results: none of the parties supported marriage equality. However, all the main parties -- the Labour Party, National Action, and Democratic Alternative/Greens supported extending at least some rights to co-habiting same-sex couples. Unfortunately, they had differing concepts on the extent that this should be done.

On 2012-AUG-28, the Minister of Justice introduced the Civil Partnerships and Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Bill 2012 to Parliament. It did not succeed because the Parliament was dissolved that year during December.

On 2013-SEP-30, a new Civil Union Bill was introduced to Parliament. It would grant same-sex couples the same rights as were available to opposite-sex married couples -- including the right to adopt children. The main public opposition to the bill focused on this adoption right.

Processing of the bill in Parliament was delayed because President George Abel stated that he would not sign the bill if it were passed. He was replaced as President by Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca on 2014-APR-04 who supported the bill.

Ten days later, the House of Representatives passed the Civil Unions Act by a vote of 37 in favor, 0 opposed, and 30 abstentions!

Malta is a unicameral state: their Parliament has a House but no Senate. Thus the bill was immediately sent to President Preca who signed it into law two days later on 2014-APR-16. The Civil Unions Act 2014 granted either opposite-sex or same-sex couples the right to form civil unions with the same rights, responsibilities, and obligations as were received by all opposite couples who married -- including the right to adopt. One exception was the right to register their relationship as a marriage. To many people, this is the most important benefit of being married.

The first civil union was performed on 2014-JUN-13. By 2017-APR, 188 same-sex couples had registered their civil unions.

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The second step: attaining marriage equality by legalizing same-sex marriage:

Elections were called for 2017-JUN-03. During the campaign leading up to the elections, the leaders of both the Labour Party and of the Nationalist Party indicated their party's support for marriage equality. The Labour Party won a majority of seats in the election. Dr. Joseph Muscat (1974-) became Prime Minister.

A new bill, the Marriage Act and other Laws (Amendment) Bill was given its first and second reading on the day of the State Opening of Parliament, JUN-26!

At the time, Roman Catholic Archbishop Scicluna said:

"I can decide that a carob and an orange should no longer be called by their name. [sic] But a carob remains a carob and an orange remains an orange. And marriage, whatever the law says, remains an eternal union exclusive to a man and a woman." 3

On 2017-JUL-11, opponents to the bill held a silent vigil outside the parliament building. 5

All of three political parties supported the bill, It progressed with remarkable speed: being passed by a vote of 66 to 1 on JUL-12, and signed into law as the Marriage Act and other Laws (Amendment) Act, 2017 by President Preca on 2017-AUG-01. The law came into effect on 2017-SEP-01.

The only member of the House who opposed the bill was Edwin Vassallo. He followed the advice of the Roman Catholic church and regarded marriage equality as "morally unacceptable." He said:

"As a Christian politician I cannot leave my conscience outside the door." 3

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Public opinion polls:

Public support for same-sex marriage rose quickly in Malta starting in the year 2006:

  • 2006: A Eurostat poll showed only 18% support for marriage equality.

  • 2009-OCT: A poll among university students showed 49% support, 35% opposition and 15% undecided.

  • 2011-OCT: A new poll among university students showed that support had increased by seven percentage points to 56% in two years: a majority.

  • 2012-JUN: The English language newspaper Malta Today found that 41% of adults favored same-sex marriage; 52% were opposed. The poll exposed a major generation gap with 60% of adults aged 18 to 35 in favor but only 23% of those over 55 in support.

  • 2016-APR: The English language newspaper Malta Independent found that 61% of adults favored same-sex marriage; 25% were opposed, 10% didn't care, and 4% were unsure. The same generation gap was detected as in the 2012 poll: 92% of 18 to 24 year old adults supported same-sex marriage compared to only 43% of adults 65 and older. 52% of Nationalist Party voters and 70% of Labour Party voters were in favor of equality. Overall, women were 63% in favor as were 60% of men.

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Other developments:

  • On 2014-APR-14, the Constitution was amended to add personal protection from discrimination on the basis of either sexual orientation or gender identity.

  • During 2015-APR, Malta became the first country in the world to outlaw sterilization and invasive surgery on intersex persons.

  • During 2016-DEC, Malta passed the Affirmation of Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression Bill, thus becoming the first country in the European Union to prohibit the use of conversion therapy. 4 This therapy involves various techniques that attempt to change a person's sexual orientation. It is generally regarded by mental health organizations as both ineffective and dangerous.

  • On 2018-OCT-01, the Embryo Protection Act 2012 was amended to permit in-vitro fertilization for females including those who are in female same-sex couples.

  • Surrogacy remains unlawful in Malta for all women regardless of sexual orientation.

  • Malta has become a popular marriage destination for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. 6

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Malta," Wikipedia, as on 2019-MAR-24, at:https://en.wikipedia.org/
  2. "Same-sex marriage in Malta," Wikipedia, as on 2019-MAR-24, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/
  3. "Malta Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage," The New York Times, 2017-JUL-12, at: https://www.nytimes.com/
  4. Benjamin Butterworth, "Malta just became the first country in Europe to ban ‘gay cure’ therapy," Pink News, 2016-DEC-06, at: https://web.archive.org/
  5. "Malta allows same-sex couples to marry in 'historic vote' for Catholic country," The Telegraph, 2017-JUL-13, at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/
  6. "Weddings in Malta," Wed in Malta, at: http://wedinmalta.com/ and http://wedinmalta.com/gay-marriage/

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How you may have arrived here:

Home > Gay Marriage > here

Home > Religious info. > Basic > Marriage > Gay Marriage > SSM menu > here

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Copyright © 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2019-MAR-29
Author: B.A. Robinson
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