[WATCH] Muscat: 'Labour true proponent of liberal equality'

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says the Labour government had guided Malta out of mediocrity and would continue working to ensure country remains a leader in liberal rights equality

The Labour government had proven to be a true believer in the rights of the LGBTIQ community and was continuing to work to ensure that Malta remain a truly liberal society where all persons are treated with equal dignity, Prime minister Joseph Muscat said tonight.

The Labour Party leader, speaking in Senglea at a public screening of discussion programme Pjazza hosted by Karl Stagno Navarra, was welcomed with enthusiasm by a large crowd of supporters as he and his wife appeared on set, mere minutes after opposition leader Simon Busuttil finished addressing a press conference in which he once again accused Muscat’s chief of staff of graft and money laundering.

“I am very pleased to have guided this country out of mediocrity. As Felix Busuttil said last Sunday, we moved away from categories of citizens but instead made huge strides towards real equality,” Muscat said.

He said that Malta was, for the second year running, leading a list of countries with the most liberal legislation in favour of LGBTIQ persons.

“We managed to do this because we had the courage to make important decisions, as when we introduced civil unions,” Muscat said. “Despite all surveys showing low acceptance of such laws back then, we have shown that instead of being afraid of numbers, we chose to change them, and today the majority of people readily accept civil unions.”

He criticised “some people” who had abstained from that discussion, saying people were not ready to recognise civil unions or to see same-sex couples adopting children, when those same people were today trying to put themselves forward as paladins of liberal equality.

Muscat said that proposals presented earlier in the afternoon by the Labour Party – free hormone replacement therapy for transgender individuals, gender balance on government boards, and gay marriage to replace civil unions – were a giant liberal leap forward.

He said that some people might feel these were minority issues that might also not be widely accepted, but he felt the Labour movement should hold on to equality as a principle at all costs.

“Have we been perfect these past four years? No, but I think when you consider everything, the balance tips in favour of all the good things we have done,” he said.

Muscat reiterated his vow to introduce a bill legalising gay marriages before Parliament’s summer recess and not to waste any unnecessary time.

PN tax proposals would lead to dangerous level of precarious work

On tax cut proposals presented by the Nationalist Party yesterday, Muscat said the most unstable couple in political history – PN leader Simon Busuttil and Democratic Party leader Marlene Farrugia – was creating ever more confusion day on day, to a point where this confusion was becoming dangerous.

He noted that the PN had proposed that self-employed persons be taxed at a reduced rate than others.

“When one considers this carefully, a self-employed architect that earns €50,000 will pay €4,000 in taxes, but another architect employed by a company would pay €9,000,” he said. “This is dangerous because people would be incentivised to register as self-employed instead of becoming employed.”

He said that the PN proposal would create a new level of precarious work in Malta, since self-employed did not enjoy leave or sick leave allowances and other benefits and did not enjoy the protection other workers did.

“Our proposals, on the other hand, ensure that workers are treated equally and that everyone benefit equally from the cuts and rebates we have put forward,” Muscat said.

Transgender Joanne Cassar and partner applied for adoption

Transgender woman Joanne Cassar revealed that two years into her marriage, she has now applied for adoption.

Cassar had filed a legal challenge against the Maltese government in the European Court of Human Rights for refusing her the right to marry her boyfriend after having had gender reassignment.

In 2013, the Labour government relinquished the case in the European Court and presented amendments to the Civil Code under which transgender people are now considered as individuals of the acquired sex with full rights, including the right to marry. That same year, she was honoured in that year’s Republic Day Gieh ir-Repubblika ceremony.
Cassar's ordeal began in 2006, when – after undergoing a complex and expensive procedure to change her sex from male to female, and having her birth certificate amended accordingly - she was refused permission to marry on the basis that the Marriage Act prohibited unions between persons of the same gender.