Labour motion passes, Malta to go for 28 May referendum on divorce

Divorce bill promoter Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, Nationalist ministers Tonio Fenech and Austin Gatt, parliamentary secretary Mario de Marco and Opposition leader Joseph Muscat

The final sitting that debated the Labour motion for a referendum on divorce finished at 1:12pm today after the motion was passed by the House. Read highlights of the speakers' comments on the motion here.

13:12 Labour amendment to the motion calling for the vote to be held on May 28 passes nem con. It was seconded by the Prime MInister.

Nationalist MPs Jesmond Mugliett and Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando have voted in favour of a Labour motion for a referendum to take place on the 28 May on introducing divorce after four years of marital separation.

13:07 Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando thanks PM for giving free vote, expresses loyalty to government, says he has voted numerous times with government after having said he would vote for the Labour motion.

13:01 Voting is taking place by MPs standing up when asked who is in favour or against the Labour motion. Speaker exhorts people in Strangers' Gallery to be quiet during voting. Sitting now suspended for five minutes.

13:00 Muscat presents amendment for referendum to be held on 28 May, 2011. Prime Minister seconds.

12:53 "Shameful that people like the Prime Minister tried to depict people in favour of divorce as supporters of abortion, or minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici who claimed the only people who wanted divorce were men who wanted younger women."

12:52 "My position is clear and consistent... if referendum doesn't pass, I will bow my head to that decision at least in this legislation. The bill would have to be withdrawn."

12:42 "Divorce is something I believe in because it is part of modernising Malta... irrespective of the result of the referendum, I will be proud to have been on the right side of history. The Prime Minister said there will be a time in future when divorce will be introduced, but life comes by only once and there are many families who needed this solution yesterday."

12:35 "The PN's social soul is going back 30 years and looking less like a Christian-democrat party and more like Sarah Palin's Tea Party movement."

12:28 "We are in a situation today, where a woman who has lived with a man for 25 years, but who is not his wife, cannot have any visiting rights if he is admitted to hospital because they are not married."

12:27 "Responsible divorce will be sought after by those who want to guarantee security for a new family and to protect their children."

12:24 "Had countries not introduced divorce they would have experienced a soar in cohabitation levels. So far no country has reversed the introduction of divorce."

12:18 "Are not those who get an annulment permitted to remarry as much as they want?" Muscat refers to critics who say divorce will produce serial marriages. "Annulment nullifies relationships that existed."

12:17 "Government is living in a state of denial and resting on statistics... but these people are humans and not numbers. I believe divorce, once introduced, will not be a catalyst for social problems but actually expose these problems. Today's hypocrisy is sweeping our problems under the carpet."

12:11 "I am a Christian. Years ago when I started developing a liberal position in favour of divorce I believed I had a conflict. It was by the grace of God that I found people in the Church that I understood a position in favour of divorce could be based on an exam of conscience. That is why I enter this debate as a Labour MP who is Christian."

12:07 "European values are based on tolerance... and it is tolerance that I think should differentiate us from other societies. Tolerance gives us choice, and choice gives us rights."

12:06 "This question has got nothing to do with modelling ourselves on other countries or because we are the only country apart from the Philippines not to have divorce... there are ethical values inspired by other things than religion and divorce has to be treated rationally and not on some religious dogma. I want to live in a European country and that does not mean flying to Brussels or passing through the EU citizens' lane at airports. It means having a set of European values."

12:03 Opposition leader Joseph Muscat now addressing the House.

12:00 "We are trying to take the people for a ride over a lie that we're guaranteeing something that we cannot guarantee." (referring to maintenance of children.)

11:55 "How could we allow people the right to divorce simply because ' hey have had enough of marriage'. The abuse of such a concept can be so large that it does not justify giving capricious people the right to marry simply because they are capricious enough to do so..."

11:54 "We are giving out a right to capricious people to divorce... this divorce allows people to divorce instantly just by spending four years not living with their spouse. The no-fault divorce allows capricious people to go from one marriage to the other."

11:53 "The question as written implies misleadingly that some form of guarantees will be given on the maintenance of children."

11:46 "MPs who refuse to listen to their conscience just to be popular or 'mainstream' does not deserve our respect... I hope to God we vote according to what we really believe in... I know there are many among us here who are under pressure to vote with the majority, should the referendum be won by the 'divorcists' [sic]."

11:42: "Why did the pro-divorce camp change its tactic on discussing the bill before a referendum... because they knew that the bill did not enjoy the support of the majority of the members of the House... they knew there were more Labour MPs voting against the bill itself than Nationalist MPs voting in favour of the law."

11:40 "This referendum is going to be based on speculations... it is interesting to see the pro-divorce camp changed its tactic once it saw the PN executive voting on a resolution on divorce. When there was previously a bill, the pro-divorce camp said it was unfair to hold a referendum before a bill is discussed on parliament - even Opposition leader Joseph Muscat had said he would table a private members' bill."

11:39 Austin Gatt is now addressing the house.

11:39 "It is a pity that we have not arrived at a common position on what to ask Maltese voters... we could not agree on the most crucial thing, what we will ask them."

11:23 Parliamentary Secretary Mario de Marco is now addressing the house.

11:20 "I am not uncomfortable to express my Christian beliefs here, and when we opened this sitting we made a supplication to the Holy Spirit to open our minds... man is like a beautiful Ferrari, and that Ferrari has a manual, and if that manual says the car needs petrol but you put diesel in the car, that Ferrari is going to stop: the values God gave us were for our own good. He did not give us such values because He is some spoilsport... I am proud to say our society is better because of our values and the value of our family. But destroying these values for everybody to address an issue of some people, is a mistake."

11:15 "This referendum question does not propose that consensus between the spouses should be required of a divorce... which means spouses who leave the household do not need the consensus of the other spouse."

11:13 "This question does not reflect the private members' bill... the bill has not yet been discussed, but only presented. And if this motion reflects this law, does this mean that all Labour signatories to the motion are in agreement with the divorce bill?"

11:11 "I believe we must keep on working to preserve the strength of marriage... but if marriages break down we must find a way to give people who start a new family an element of protection. Because we know that if people are abused in the first marriage, they are tantamount to being abused in the second marriage."

11:08 "The desire for marital permanence was not invented by the Church... it is desired by everybody who enters marriage and it is this permanence we have to defend. Friends of mine have had marital breakdown, but should we therefore break this concept of marriage for everybody by giving them a newly frocked marriage, one that is not permanent?"

11:07 "I am hurt by critics who say that those who oppose divorce are necessarily confessionals who are intolerant and want to impose their morality on others."

11:02 "It is not true that fault and financial consequences of fault are really addressed in the motion's referendum question: if spouses do not live together for four years, even after a marriage of one year, we are allowing such a couple to divorce."

11:00 Fenech delivers anecdote of foreigners talking to him of divorce: "I asked someone who had divorced after one year of marriage, whether he would have tried to reconcile had divorce not been possibile, and he said yes. I fear that a snowball effect will be precipitated once divorce is introduced."

10:54 "Status of so many in Australia is that many are today choosing not to marry and instead cohabit..."

10:53 Finance Minister Tonio Fenech is now addressing the house.

10:45 "Labour MP Adrian Vassallo and Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi should understand that prevalence of social problems are informed by marital breakdown not by divorce itself, a situation already existent among us... children will only suffer more by being forced to live in unhappy family and not in new family of spouses rebuilding lives and families."

10:42 Pullicino Orlando says he would abstain from voting on divorce bill if referendum is won by voters who vote against divorce bill.

10:40 "We had called (former Labour leader) Alfred Sant anti-democratic for saying he would not stand by verdict in consultative referendum... the question posed to the electorate in the EU referendum in 2003 asked people whether they wanted Malta to be part of enlargement of EU on 1 May 2004 and Sant said he felt it was not the ripe time for Malta to be an EU member then - I'm sure Sant would have voted yes if it was a simple question asking the 'imbecile' Maltese people whether they agreed with EU accession or not."

10:39 Refers to MP Edwin Vassallo: "How could an MP use his faith to justify voting against the will of the people because the referendum itself is 'only' consultative'."

10:35 "MP Beppe Fenech Adami says divorce is wrong because it allows multiple remarriage... and then he says divorce is only for rich people who can afford maintenance payments. Is it an easy divorce for serial marriages, or one, hard divorce because of the costs involved?"

10:33 "Let's give the electorate a fair question, a question that respects the choice of those who believe in a responsble form of divorce."

10:29 "The Irish are stereotypical idiots in jokes... how confusing was their referendum question for them to have decided on divorce themselves?" - JPO referring to claims by MP Stephen Spiteri and Francis Zammit Dimech that question was too confusing, or did not include all aspects of the divorce bill being proposed.

10:25 Refers to claims by DJ and anti-divorce campaigner Pierre Cordina that divorce would allow him to leave wife instantly and look for new partner. "I am sure he had nothing to say... he couldn't think of anything right to say."

10:21 Refers to Andre Camilleri's claim that battered wives should separate not divorce from abusive husbands. "Maltese law does not even defend women forcefully from abusive husbands... it liberates aggressors. Does Dr Andre [sic] think that women should just be punching bags?"

10:20 "Government's plans to introduce cohabitation law would have created second-class marriage if not bigamy... Malta would have been 'strange creature' inside EU."

10:16 "Had it not been a private members bill moved by a UK Labour MP, capital punishment would not have been outlawed in MP... Edwin Vassallo's claim that standing orders, modelled on UK law, did not consider such private members bill from 'upstaging' agenda, is incorrect."

10:15 "If we impose our beliefs on citizens we'll end up worse than Iran, ruled by Ayatollahs..."

10:13 "Children born out of wedlock because parents are separated spouses who cannot remarry. Lack of guarantees means mothers are declaring fathers 'unknown' so that they claim social benefits for children."

10:10 Statistics from Eurostat - Maltese marriage rate in 2008 was 6.03 for every 1,000 population, but rate of marital breakdown of 22% (separations and foreign divorces) but marriage annulments do not features since the marriage is considered 'null'.

10:05 "The PN believes in family, but is it just the family that has had a serene history? Or do second families who live in harmony and have had children not worthy of this appellation?... Is it just the people who got it right at the first go who are entitled to a family? Are we perpetuating a caste system?"

10:04 "Was rallying cry of Xoghol Gustizzja Libertà (Work, Justice, Liberty) solely reserved for toothpaste and chocolate?"

10:03 "I cannot understand how PN after years of accepting political candidates that were openly pro-divorce, took a stand in the executive committee against divorce?"

10:01 "Let's not allow the 1995 Church-State concordat blind us to the human empathy we have to show to suffering couples."

09:55 "What constitutes common good?" Pullicino Orlando quoting US founding father John Adams, Profs. Kenneth Wain "if object of law is common good, how is it being defined and who defines it? First thing, it must be common, refer to the whole of society, including individuals and minorities, it is wellbeing of everybody in society... that good is best served when people are left free t live their lives and not when paternalistic state or intolerant majority commands them."

09:53 Refers to PM's statement Tuesday evening that 'time has not yet come for divorce': "When will it be ripe for divorce to be introduced? Potentially we will have 75,000 cohabiting people who have no other choice... what effects will this have on our society?"

09:50 "This law gives more value to the family: what value would it have if it was built by separated spouses forced to cohabit... while other couples are 'aided' in getting divorce from abroad or an ecclesiastical annulment."

09:42 "In cases of annulment, spouses are granted dispensation from maintenance payments because marriage is considered as null and never having existed."

09:40 "Guarantees for maintenance of spouses are already enshrined in Maltese law and already a criminal offence to withhold maintenance payment, and civil remedy to demand maintenance payment from the courts."

09:36 "Courts already grant 'no-fault' separation to spouses on grounds of threats, or offence against a spouse or their children... or because marriage has broken down irremediably... court can also declare separation because spouses were married without consent. This means judges can give no-fault separation."

09:35 Addressing Minister Tonio Fenech: "Being a Catholic politician is well and good... but putting the temporal interests of the Church before the interests of the citizens is wrong. I defended the Church's right to faith schools, but I cannot defend its interest and temporal power in parliament as we did in the Church-State agreement of 1995..."

09:27 "This is a discussion that will - God willing [sic] - bring a change to the better for so many suffering couples."

09:25 "Divorce is a state of fact, the termination of a marriage... asking separated spouses to wait four years to divorce is a long time."

09:22 "Not easy for me to vote for a Labour motion, but I believe we have to go for referendum and that we should not prohibit citizens from making a clear choice on this matter."

09:21 "I felt that minority rights should not be submitted to referendum... but then I understood that a matter of such importance should be decided by referendum."

09:20 Speaker Michael Frendo intervenes to clarify that he offered his advice when asked by Pullicino Orlando to consult parliament's lawyer Profs. Ian Refalo.

09:18 "Question proposed by in motion is same as Irish question in its referendum."

09:16 "The reason MPs are opposing the referendum is because they want to impose their beliefs upon others."

09:15 “Claims that the referendum question is ‘sugar-coated’ have not been backed by proper arguments against the law being proposed in the private members bill… if we can improve it, my colleagues should present amendments to the law.”

09:13 "My private members bill is built on most conservative divorce law on the face of the earth – the Irish model."

09:11 “No scientific study exists to make a difference between the way civil separations, ecclesiastical annulment, or divorce affect spouses and their children.”

09:10 “Civil separations and ecclesiastical annulment exists, and children will always suffer from the trauma of separation in any process of marital termination.”

09:02 Nationalist MP Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando starts off the sitting. "Let me start off by saying that I disagree with divorce... I hope to see a strengthening of the family unit."

Great convincing speeches by Dr Joseph Muscat and Jeffrey Pulicino Orlando - Id-divorzju ghandu jaqbel mieghu kulhadd ghax hadd u hadd ma jaf meta jigi bzonnu. Minn jghamel bhan-nghma u ma jafx j'inhu jigri f'Malta hu konta d-divorzju. Nispera li l-minoranza huma dawn.
Keith Goodlip
You find as you look around that every bit of human feeling, every improvement in human dignity, every step towards moral progress, has been consistantly opposed by the church.
PN il-Partit tal-Le!
@capricon Politicians of Dr Sant's caliber are few and gonzi isn't one of them. Gonzi played the divorce issue in the wrong way and as you said he should resign because it was he who turned the issue into a political one. @the REST Stop including the church it has admirably kept alof from the issue lets not give some hypocrits inside the curia any excuse to butt their nose in, in the name of the church.
Dr Joseph Muscat's first victory in the House. From now on ... the sky is the limit.
Dr Mazetta Austin Gatt issa li ghaddiet il mozjoni ta opposizjoni NISTENNEWK LI TIRRESENJA bhal ma ghid ghax 2 min SHABEK qablu mal Partit Laburista ghalhekk issa kun RAGEL u ghamel dak li ghid li taghmel 9IRRESENJA 0 ghax ma ghaddietx tieghek
Now that the CURIA PUPPIES has gone back to their kennels with their tails between their legs, this country must stand up for its civil rights and vote overwhelmingly to legislate DIVORCE. Only then can Malta move forward from its medieval mentality and discard once and for all the inquisition laws that the Curia mplemented for all these years. JPO and JM ought to seriously consider leading a third political party in Malta.
Before the loud mounthed anti divorce campaigners speak, they should ask all those who come from a broken home as to how they feel about divorce.
Joe Tanti
HE..HE..HE....mela issa ghanda teatru bla saqaf u partit (PN) bla kukki, Jean Pierre paroli biss,Karl Gouder mhux inqass minnhu, jkolli nghid li tnejn li huma ghandhom kukki,imma qeghdin maghfusa fl'idejn sodi tal'Ajutallah Wenzinu Gonzi.
Now it's all in the hands of the maltese citizens. let us see the maltese solidarity between them. This is a matter of solidarity betwen us all. no politics. Just solidarity. lets us see the respect we have for each other- at least the majority. Today it can be me, today it can be you, tomorrow can be my son, tomorrow can be your son. the day after can be my granddaughter the day after, can be your granddaughter, who might be in need of a divorce ... as stated noone mariries to divorce, but as humans knows how to lie ,and ceratin grave situations can arise which will lead to grave situations(all cases are different) yes the divorce will be a must- Freedom is the best thing a human can have- even animals needs their freedom- all needs Freedom to live freedom to choose. let No politician or church tells you how to live . we are the masters of our own life- we know what is good and what is best for us all. for the first time , let us see how much solidarity exists between us the maltese ppl. we always have helped the foreigners in their woes and troubles. Now let us vote for a yes to a responsable divorce law- Remmber today it can be me , but tomorrow can be you!
Mr Mugliett today also showed his mettle! As regards Karl Gouder this is a case of double standard. He is neither here nor there! Shame on him. I expected more from Dr Pierre Farrugia. Now it is obvious that he just barks at the tree, no more, no less!
Why did JPO feel it necessary to thank gonzi for a free vote when he only did so after JPO himself insisted he would not go against his own initiative. If he thinks this will make ammends with his buddies in gonziPN he is frightfully mistaken he knows that his political carreer with gonziPN was on the rocks from day one of this legislature. From here I thank Marie Louise and Dr Zammit for not imposing their beliefs on others even though they are against divorce they have shown maturity in letting the people decide for themselves.
@ Matthew ..Sour grapes or spoilt brats !.
PS - Karl Gouder - YOU of all people should know a thing or two about minority rights or the absence of them. Shame on you DOUBLY! I hope you're proud to now be officially one of a very select and elite group of spineless wimps and characterless caricatures.
Joseph Caruana
Once the labour motion passed the PN side did not stand up to register its nay.
My loathing of the Nats is now complete, fulfilled and justified. For this total absebce of cojones alone on the divorce issue I will be backing Labour. Good move JPO and Mugliett - You're the only two MPs on the government side who appear to have dangly things where they're supposed to be. To all the rest - SHAME ON YOU, you curia-loving, bible thumping, people-hating hypocrites!
I had my personal opinion about Jean Pierre Farrugia this is his second time he stood up only to back down like a whipped dog. Great going JPF. Unless one puts his money where his mouth is he cannot be counted as a man, using the wording of the ammendment as a pretex to vaoid voting yes only goes to show you are a whimp first class.
how did it pass nem con?? want it 36 for and 33 against? how is that unanimous... correct me if I'm wrong please?
Pauline Moran Malti ji fuq tlieta toqghod il borma! Mela arahom gejjien...L-ewwel tlift il vot fil parlament, it-tieni ser titlef ir referendum, u t-tielet u l-ahhar ser titlef l-elezzjoni...Wenz ser jispiccalkom il qziez li rabbejtu kemm ilkom hemm fuq. Hemm bzonn ta' tizbieta nobis biex tindunaw kemm kontu iprokriti, giddibien u tghixu f'mentalita tal medju evu!!!
Great speech by Joseph Muscat, first battle won. congratulations.
Great speech by Joseph Muscat, first battle won. congratulations.
This vote undermines the PM's credibility as leader of his party. He lost two members today. It will not lead to the Govt's collapse but it is definetly symbolic.
Min ghadu jghati kaz ta' x'jghid Tonio Fenech................ Austin Gatt u gonzi ukoll. Dawk l-imzazen biss ghadhom issegwuhom, niddubita jekk jghatux kashom tal-familja.
@ The Alchemist fully agree re JPO he has stood by his believes and rightfully so ..Well Done !.
@ Thorny Because in all probability Dr Austin Gatt wanted to talk last and in view that now he is know for his stamping of the feet when he does not get it his way, Dr Gonzi was afraid that Dr Gatt would threaten once again to resign and Dr Gonzi had to give in!
Luke Camilleri
@Matthew Vella I know that The PM's speech was yesterday evening. but isn't it funny that the closing adresses not be made by the Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi and the Leader of the Opposition Dr. Joseph Muscat? . On what grounds was Dr. Gatt chosen to close the debate on the Gonzi side? Is Dr. Gonzi lost for words....even his script was written and read out ? Report Abuse
hahahahaaa , austin gatt qal - li anke jekk fir re-referendum l-poplu jivvota iva- jista ma jghaddiex mil-abbozz ta -ligi ghax adrian vassallo iddikjara, li anke jek jaghddi ghal iva fir-referendum-, huwa adrian vassallo jivvota kontra- qal austin gatt, sakemm adrian vassallo ma jergax jibdielu sa xarejn ohra- meta nisma d-dawn l-affarijiet haga wahda nghid- 99.9 % ta dan it-referendum konsultattiv , qabel ma jsir abbozz ta ligi hija farsa. ahjar nidhaq- ghax kif jghidu, iz-zmien jurina, u hell hu- halli lil kulhadd ihawwad mela. morru poggu qalulkom :) fil-parlament li hawn hawn Malta - tajba id-diska ta Gigi Agostino- Bla Bla Bla Lollllllllllllllllllllllll L-ixkubetta fiha l-grillu u kilhadd jaghmel li jaqbillu ;-)
charlene cassar
Tonio Fenech, kemm tiflah tkun BUFFU ! bir-ragunament NISRANI tieghek allura, ghal-gid komuni dawn n-nies msieken li forsi jixtiequ jergghu jibdew ntuhom bis-sieq hux !!!! Possibli li l-finanzi ta dan l-pajjiz qeghdin f'idejh ? ? ?
Welcome to Fundamentalist Malta. Unbeleivable! We are still living in the middle ages...literally! What a shame! next thing we are going to hear is that we will be passing a law to make use of condoms illegal! After the great realief we got this week that courts found in favour of freedom of speech ( shame that we even had to go there) you listen to what is being said in parliament today and you squirm. Well done to all the politicians from both sides living in the 21st century.
You have to give it to him. JPO has courage, besides, he has the gift of the gab and is well prepared!
Tonio Fenech u kull min jahsiba bhalu- Issa jekk ezempju l-mara tieghek trid titilqek , jew kull koppja ohra, mhux xorta titilqek u tmur tpoggi ma haddiehor, ja injurant jew giddieb! ara dak id-diskors li qed tipprova tommanupala xi bahnan miskin. ara x'politikanti ghnada u leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee kemm qeghdin sew. mhux xorta , in-nies hajjitom ser jobqghu jghixu- u l-ebda bahnan bhalek mu ser jindahallom jew jghidilom xi jridu jaghmlu.
Tonio fenech maqtugh mir-realta - jew giddieb jew injurant. raguni fis-separazzjonijiet mil-qorti mhux dejjem inata` l-manteniment- naf nies hekk jien- Int trid tiddeciidi ghal haddiehor? mhux hekk nibqaw, lolllllllll jiddeciedi imma l-poplu meta jigi biex jivvotalek fl-elezzjoni generali- issa meta tigi l-elezzjoni ara kif ser taghmel halli tuza l-poter li ghandek , halli jergaw itellawk fil-parlament. ghax minghajr il-voti tan-nies jispiccalek il-qziez lghandek.
PN completely out of touch with reality. Even though I am a PN supporter I am disappointed by the way PN has changed throughout these last connection at all with the people, complete lack of interest in the south of Malta (and please dont mention ghost smart city), lack of consultation with us supporters, Jack Daniels seems to be a cabinet member. I have stopped paying the tessera last year. PN is no longer my party. PN has abandoned its supporters and has lost touch with reality...which is clearley shown in the comments abt divorce and speech by Hon Prime Minister. In a few weeks time, Hon Mario Galea will come over asking for the usual Vote. I am jotting down notes and questions for him. But since the answers are a YES or NO...I need to make sure that he is in shape for the answers. Perhaps he will send femail representatives instead of him..just like he did at his office in Zejtun. with such people in cabinet, no wonder this Govt, which I elected, is giving me the buck.
The 1995 Agreement between the Vatican and the PN ? Dan hu il-qofol ta kollox; Malta fief of the Vatican bhal ma kienet taht il-Kavallieri u l-Inglizi fejn jidhlu affarijiet u privileggi tal-Knisja! Universita ta Malta saret is is-Seminarju. Kull Post importanti fis-socjeta Maltija, kulll ligi, subject to the Church's veto. Welcome to the Liberal Party of Bidnija!
Jeff Cassar klikkjaw fuq live stream :)
Joseph Caruana
@Thorny The PM's speech was yesterday evening.
Luke Camilleri
Pullicino Orlando, Gatt and Muscat address final sitting on divorce referendum --------------------------- Why not Pullicino Orlando , Prime Minister Gonzi and Leader of the Opposition Dr. Joseph Muscat? Is Dr. Gatt the "unofficial" Prime Minister and leader of the N.P.?