Adrian Delia vs 'the Lesbians'

Well, what can I say? No prizes for guessing whom the bookies expect to win

PN leader Adrian Delia
PN leader Adrian Delia

In one corner, we have the struggling, beleaguered leader of a virtually non-existent party, who only just managed to scrape into Parliament by the skin of his teeth (and at the cost of one of his few Parliamentary allies)... and who, to the best of my knowledge, doesn’t even enjoy the support of a majority of his own motley MPs... 

...and on the other, we have one of Malta’s most organised, influential and politically successful lobby-groups, whose tenacity and perseverance has scored one political victory after another over the last 10 or so years: elevating Malta’s civil rights profile several notches in the process. 

A bit of a one-sided contest, don’t you think?  If this were a real boxing match, the umpire would probably call it off just to avoid an unnecessary bloodbath. Even Simon Busuttil understood that he had no chance against the turning tide of public opinion in such matters. He tried to change his party’s doomed stand on issues like IVF and same-sex marriage  – unsuccessfully, perhaps; but still. At least, he recognised the importance of charting a new course when it comes to civil liberties. He understood that the country had changed, and that his party’s mindset had no choice but to evolve with it. 

With Adrian Delia, on the other hand, we have not seen even a flicker of any such acknowledgement yet. The new PN leader still seems to think that he can ‘revert to winning ways’, by turning the clock back to the very hour when it first started sliding into election-losing insignificance. His only discernible strategy to date has been to emulate the failed policies of the Gonzi administrations – not ALL Gonzi’s policies, mind you: just the failed ones. Or to put it another way: the policies that succeeded only in transforming the PN from the formidable political force it once was, to the unelectable mess it has become today.

But no matter: if that’s how Delia wants to do things... I say, let him. Just don’t all pretend to be surprised, when an army of irate lesbians slits the newly anointed PN leader open from his Catholic guggle to his Latin zatch... and dismembers him so thoroughly, that there’ll be nothing left but a pair of spectacles to show that someone named ‘Adrian Delia’ had ever existed at all. 

There is, after all, a reason why history keeps repeating itself. It’s because some people just never learn from their mistakes.

In this case, Delia’s mistake goes far beyond the purely strategic matter of picking a battle he can’t possibly win. If that were the extent of it, I’d be happy to put it down to lack of experience, and wish him better luck with his next adventure. 

No, the real problem is that the PN’s proposals betray an overwhelming prejudice... not just against lesbians and gays in general; but against pretty much everyone who doesn’t fall into the ‘Catholic/Latin’ paradigm that Delia has unilaterally invented to rebrand his party. 

Let’s break things down a little, shall we? Delia’s actual initiative was to table a motion objecting to a new law which would empower people to claim sick leave when seeking IVF services abroad. If ‘lesbians’ were singled out in most newspaper headlines, it’s because the specific changes proposed by the PN’s motion target the legal definition of ‘prospective parent’. 

The new law leaves that definition vague enough to also include same-sex couples (which, after all, are now fully recognised as ‘equal’ at law)... and for fairly obvious biological reasons, in this context, the ‘sex’ in question can only really be female. So yes: prima facie, the PN motion does seem aimed specifically at making things as difficult as possible for lesbian couples – more than any other category – to avail of IVF technology in order to have children.

Now: if that’s the view the PN intends to adopt... so be it. I would never vote for a party that tries to pull off such a mean and uncharitable stunt myself; but that’s just me. I’m sure plenty of homophobes out there would be more than willing to support such a thing. Most of them are busy voicing their online support even as I write.

This is a choice example of the sort of voter the PN now seems to want to attract: “It is finally time to reverse the perverse. The gays have people in political power and have infected the PL. The people have had it with these extremists who have highjacked [sic] our country. This is the beginning of the end of the gay influence on Maltese politics...”

At the same time, though: if they’re happy to represent that sort of attitude in Parliament... it’s their pigeon, at the end of the day. Besides: the PN has always been the natural home of people who view ‘the gay influence’ as some form of ‘sickness’, to be vaccinated against and hopefully eradicated altogether. Nothing new there at all. (Yet what had Delia promised us before the leadership election, if not ‘something new’? Ah well, it was fun while it lasted.)

The real cause for concern lies in the official justification. For one thing, the PN is quite simply lying when it claims that its intention was not ‘to take rights away from any individuals’. If this motion passes, some individuals will indeed be stripped of a right: the right to claim sick leave when going abroad for medical reasons. It might not qualify as one of the fundamental human rights guaranteed by the Universal Charter; but a right it remains all the same. 

So let’s cut this crap about trying to keep all fingers in all pies at once, shall we? There are no two ways about it: the PN’s motion is a deliberate attempt to sabotage and curtail rights proposed under the new law... and its purpose is to ingratiate itself with precisely the sort of voter I quoted above.

That, however, is just a minor detail for the sake of clarification. It’s the underlying pretext I worry about myself. The PN also argues that the wording of the new law contradicts that of an earlier act of Parliament: the Embryo Protection Act of 2012, which (inter alia) defines ‘prospective parents’ as: “either of two persons of the opposite sex who are united in marriage, or who have attained the age of majority and are in a stable relationship with each other”.

On this detail, the PN is factually correct. But that only underscores how utterly short-sighted and ill-intentioned the original law (passed by the Gonzi administration, shortly before losing an election by a historic landslide) really was. A number of things have happened since 2012... one of them was the Civil Unions Act, and another the Marriage Equality Act earlier this year (which the PN itself approved in parliament, albeit under different leadership).

Those new laws ushered in civil unions, and later marriage, for same-sex couples. And it was precisely to address these emergent social realities that need was felt to update the laws regulating IVF therapy: so that the prejudices inherent in the former legislation do not perpetuate themselves endlessly in future.

Here, it must also be pointed out that the Labour government – enjoying, as it does, an unassailable parliamentary majority – could easily have amended the Embryo Protection Act to iron out this discrepancy at any time since 2013. It could have changed the legal definition of ‘prospective parent’, and thus pre-emptively sweep the carpet from right under Delia’s feet. There was absolutely nothing to stop it, in any shape or form.

Perhaps it was a genuine oversight; and perhaps pigs really can fly. On the earlier subject of bookies: I’d be willing to place a small bet that the Labour government omitted to do so very deliberately indeed... to create yet another civil liberties trap for the PN unwittingly to fall headlong into (as usual). 

Either way, it matters little. The discrepancy certainly does exist... and it’s an ugly discrepancy, too. In practice, it means that same-sex married couples or civil partnerships – though ‘recognised’ at law – cannot avail themselves of IVF therapy at a local hospital. Like children of a lesser god, these people have no choice but to seek treatment abroad at their own expense. 

That, by the way, is a classic case of ‘discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation’ right there, staring us all in the face. And ironically, it was the same Gonzi administration that enshrined ‘sexual orientation’ among the legal grounds in our anti-discrimination laws in the first place.

In other words, the Embryo Protection Act is itself blatantly illegal... not to mention outdated, in the light of more recent laws; and also offensive, to people who value genuine equality. So what better way to redress this injustice, than to amend all subsequent laws – including the one we’re debating right now – to reflect the same old homophobic prejudices of former PN administrations? You know, just to make sure they never go away at all?

But hey, like I’ve been saying all along: if that’s how the PN under Adrian Delia wants to reinvent itself... don’t let me stand in the way. In fact, I’m rather looking forward to this bloodba... I mean, historic encounter myself. I might just run down to the nearest bookie (any old street corner, these days) to place a bet before the first gong. 

Here: it’s €10 on the lesbians... KO in the first round. Anyone willing to offer decent odds?

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