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Marriage amendments still leaves minorities by the wayside, says NGO Aditus

Not entirely equal: why Malta’s marriage law still discriminates against migrants and those of other religions

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
5 July 2017, 12:01pm
Aditus said the Bill ignores the challenges faced by refugees and migrants who remain bound by the civil status declarations they make before the Office of the Refugee Commissioner, usually within days of their arrival.
Aditus said the Bill ignores the challenges faced by refugees and migrants who remain bound by the civil status declarations they make before the Office of the Refugee Commissioner, usually within days of their arrival.
Malta may be on the cusp of a historic law that will allow same-sex couples the right to marry, but one of the most active NGOs in the field of human rights says Malta’s marriage rules will still prevent irregular migrants from getting married.

Aditus Foundation, which contributed to the law’s drafting through its position in the LGBT consultative council, said it was “extremely happy” to see Malta adopting marriage equality laws.

But while the Bill will allow same-sex couples to marry, the proposed law maintains the a discriminatory status quo by denying irregular migrants access to marriage, due to their impossibility of producing the required documentation.

“The relevant authorities have done very little to seek alternative options with a view to resolving these difficulties, thereby continuing to deny marriage to an already marginalised population.

“The Bill also ignores the challenges faced by refugees and migrants who remain bound by the civil status declarations they make before the Office of the Refugee Commissioner, usually within days of their arrival in Malta. There is a need for the Government to appreciate the state of mind, thought process and personal circumstances of a person landing Malta – in many cases following a gruelling journey by boat – and declaring the status of single or married, before taking that statement as eternally binding.”

Aditus said the Bill also maintains the privileged position enjoyed by the Catholic marriages, which are recognised by the State as having the same civil effects as a marriage celebrated under the Marriage Act. “In an increasingly diverse Maltese society, where religious freedom and non-discrimination are Constitutionally protected, there is no reason why a revised Marriage Act should continue to exclude such recognition to marriages validly celebrated according to the rites of other religions and denominations.”

Aditus pointed out that the marriage equality amendments serve to render marriage and its ensuing rights and obligations as gender neutral as possible. “Although understandably challenging for some sectors, this shift in perspective by no means diminishes the personal, social and national value of marriage but rather strengthens its possibility of being conceived of and approached in as most an inclusive and welcoming approach as possible.”

Aditus foundation welcomed the Bill but strongly urged the ministry to revise the Bill in order for it to truly fulfil its stated purpose: “to modernise the institution of marriage and ensure that all consenting, adult couples have the legal right to enter into marriage.”

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.