Relationships between gay couples will be regulated by the law regulating cohabitation, including the institute of civil partnership.
The justice minister Chris Said, who is piloting the cohabitation law, said that the government will propose the regulation of same-sex relationships.
Asked by MaltaToday whether the government intends to propose legislation in regards to same-sex unions, Said said "The bill on co-habitation will be discussed in Cabinet and within the Parliamentary Group shortly. It will be presented to Parliament soon after."
The justice minister added "Government's position is that the relationship between gay couples should be regulated by the law regulating cohabitation, including the institute of civil partnership."
This is the first time the government has expressed itself clearly on same-sex unions and might pave the way for a fully fledged battle for the liberal vote between all the established political parties.
Government's position on same-sex unions follows the Nationalist Party's adoption of 'Our Roots', the party's new basic principles. The document explains that the PN believes that a "state that should legislate to establish the rights and obligations that should govern personal relationships; both heterosexual and homosexual."
The proposed law will, for the first time ever, provide legal recognition to same-sex partners. In Malta same-sex marriages are not legal and there is no other legislation regulating same-sex relationships.
Under the helm of Joseph Muscat, Labour has championed a liberal agenda, including divorce and gay rights without actually taking an official stand. As with divorce, the party leader has taken a stand in favour of civil unions however the party has declined from taking an official stand. However, the party has declared that it will include this proposal in its electoral manifesto.
On the other hand, Alternattiva Demokratika is the only political party to have taken a consistent stand in favour of same-sex unions. To date, the greens are the only party that advocates gay unions on a par with marriage between heterosexual couples.
The gay lobby also puts same-sex unions on the same level as marriage. In January, the Malta Gay Rights Movement presented a position paper advocating the best options for the legislation of same-sex marriage and families in Malta. The paper provides a legal framework for same-sex couples to be married and enjoy the rights and obligations that are incumbent upon married couples.
Last week, PN backbencher Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando said that his position in favour of gay unions was backed by the Prime Minister's special envoy and probable PN leadership contestant, Simon Busuttil.
Asked to confirm or deny Pullicino Orlando's claims, Busuttil said "I have no comment to make on private conversations." Busuttil was pressed to explain his personal position in regards to gay unions as against gay marriages, however no reply was received by the time we went to print.