Marriage equality not limited to same-sex couples

Policy chief Silvan Agius explained that the amendments will not only take into account the rights of homosexuals, but also those of heterosexuals

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Jurgen Balzan
27 June 2017, 6:54am
Policy chief Silvan Agius (left) and equality minister Helena Dalli (right) piloted the marriage law amendments
Policy chief Silvan Agius (left) and equality minister Helena Dalli (right) piloted the marriage law amendments
A landmark law introducing full marriage equality for same-sex couples will be the first deed of the second Joseph Muscat administration. 

The Marriage Act and other Laws (Amendment) Act, that will also allow husbands to adopt their wife’s surname, will be the first Bill to be debated in the House when Parliament convenes for its first sitting tomorrow.

The law is set to be unanimously approved, with all parties in Parliament agreeing with the introduction of marriage equality. 

In comments to MaltaToday policy chief Silvan Agius explained that the amendments will not only take into account the rights of homosexuals, but also those of heterosexuals. 

“Firstly it is important to clarify that the adoption of the Marriage Act and other Laws (Amendment) Act, 2017 will not lead to the end of civil unions as an institution,” Agius said, adding that following its adoption the existing exclusion of gay and lesbian couples from the institution of marriage will cease. “Indeed, following the introduction of civil unions and cohabitation rights during the past legislature, all couples, regardless of sexuality or gender, will now be able to select the form of institution that is most appropriate for them,” he said. 

Moreover, Agius said that the Bill is not limited to marriage equality for same-sex couples. 

“The surname regime for married couples will move away from the current patriarchal model where in heterosexual marriages only the wife may assume the surname of her husband. This Bill therefore brings about equality for heterosexual couples too, at least in terms of the surname regime.”

In addition, the law envisages the modernisation of marriage ceremonies and will allow among others for humanist celebrations. 

Agius explained that the Civil Unions act already allows for heterosexuals to enter into a civil union and a number of couples have indeed preferred this model over marriage.

Asked how the law will improve the lives of gay couples, Agius said “I think that by now everyone is aware of how the Civil Unions Act has empowered the LGBTIQ community in Malta to feel and live as equals in Maltese society. Marriage equality will further build on this by ensuring that all couples become fully equal under Maltese law.”

PN to vote in favour 

Civil unions were introduced by Muscat’s first administration in 2014, and according to a Eurobarometer poll taken a year later, 65% of Maltese respondents favour marriage equality.

In 2014, the PN abstained when the civil unions law was approved by Parliament, however this time around, the opposition will be voting in favour of the Marriage Act after pledging to introduce marriage for persons of the same sex in its 2017 electoral programme. 

Although a number of conservative MPs on the opposition benches have their reservations on the draft law, the Nationalist Party confirmed that its MPs will all be voting at all stages in favour of the bill to legalise gay marriage. 

“This commitment reflects the PN’s electoral pledge to introduce same-sex marriage,” the PN said in a statement on Friday, adding that it will be proposing a number of amendments at committee stage to improve the proposed Bill. 

The PN had abstained on a bill that introduced civil unions because of its reservations on gay adoptions, but eventually came out in favour of gay marriage, with outgoing leader Simon Busuttil admitting that the decision to abstain on civil unions was a mistake.

Once introduced Malta would become the 14th European nation to have legalised same-sex marriages, joining Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. 

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Jurgen Balzan joined MaltaToday in 2011, specialising in politics, foreig...