Busuttil says Bedingfield’s blogs reveal Labour’s true homophobic beliefs

At debate, SImon Busuttil and Helena Dalli cast doubts over their respective parties' LGBT+ credentials

Helena Dalli, Ralph Cassar, Godfrey Farrugia and Simon Busuttil at a debate on LGBT+ rights
Helena Dalli, Ralph Cassar, Godfrey Farrugia and Simon Busuttil at a debate on LGBT+ rights

PN leader Simon Busuttil cast doubt over Labour’s conviction of its pro-LGBT policies, arguing that blog-posts by the Prime Minister’s aide Glenn Bedingfield betrays underlying homophobic tendencies within the party.

Although Labour and PN have now adopted practically identical LGBT policies, that did not sparks from flying at a pre-election debate organised by Allied Rainbow Communities and the Malta Gay Rights Movement.

Civil liberties minister Helena Dalli, standing in for Joseph Muscat, said that she isn’t convinced that the PN has turned a new leaf on LGBT+ policies, noting that its new candidate Josie Muscat has expressed homophobic tendencies in the past.

“I asked Josie Muscat personally if he has changed his position on LGBT+ rights and he didn’t answer, so I am concerned,” she said.

Busuttil countered by referring to a blogpost written by Bedingfield in February, in which he suggestively questioned whether the PN leader “prefers pastizzi or sausage rolls”.

Simon Busuttil called out Glenn Bedingfield for writing 'homophobic' blogs
Simon Busuttil called out Glenn Bedingfield for writing 'homophobic' blogs

“By that same logic, Dalli can’t put my mind at rest when Glenn Bedingfield frequently writes blogposts with constant innuendoes that I am gay,” he said. “I don’t consider it an insult to be called gay, but Bedingfield’s post asking me whether I prefer pastizzi or sausage rolls had homophobic tendencies.

“It gives me the impression that Labour’s pro-LGBT stance is just for show so as to win votes, but that deep down its culture and mentality is still extremely homophobic. Why don’t you ask Ronnie Pellegrini [Dalli’s chief of staff] what he thinks of these issues?”

In his opening speech, before departing for another commitment, Joseph Muscat outlined Labour’s electoral pledges for the LGBT community as part of his plans for Malta to “take a liberal leap forward”.

These include introducing gay marriage, opening a gender identity clinic, offering free gender reassignment surgery and hormone replacement therapy, extending IVF to LGBT couples, allowing gay people to donate blood, and introducing PrEP medication for people at risk of HIV infection.

Busuttil gave his seal of approval on all counts and insisted that the PN’s stance on LGBT+ issues has signficantly shifted since it abstained on civil unions in 2014.

“The PN was too slow to adapt to pro-LGBT policies, to put it mildly, and although we feel that Labour used LGBT people for political purposes, the time has come to cut a line through this issue once and for all,” he said. “Every PN candidate, including Josie Muscat, is committed to supporting the PN’s electoral proposals from A to Z. Before I accepted Josie Muscat’s candidature, I made it clear to him how important LGBT issues are to me, and he made it clear to me that he will support me.”

He noted that the PN is fielding a trans candidate, Alex Mangion, in the upcoming election.

“I am proud that one of our candidates is trans. I think that this sends a clear message on how comfortable we are with Alex, and how comfortable Alex is with the PN.”

However, Dalli frequently attempted to open up old wounds, noting that the PN had abstained from voting against civil unions only three years ago.

“We are talking about 2014, when Busuttil was already the PN’s leader, and not 20 years ago,” she said.

The debate was also addrressed by Alternattiva Demokratika secretary Ralph Cassar and Partit Demokratiku candidate and former Labour whip Godfrey Farrugia.

Farrugia called for caution on relaxing the blood donation ban for gay men, arguing that it should still stand for people who have anal sex without protection.

“Out of 20 HIV cases in Malta last year, 19 of them were the result of unprotected anal sex,” he said.