Muscat: PN’s marriage equality proposal would have created ‘social apartheid’

Joseph Muscat says parliamentary debate on gay marriage bill shows how Labour and PN on 'completely different wavelengths' when it comes to LGBT equality 

Joseph Muscat said that the Marriage Equality Bill will be a 'historic vote of conscience'
Joseph Muscat said that the Marriage Equality Bill will be a 'historic vote of conscience'

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat delivered his harshest criticism yet of the Nationalist Party’s proposed amendments to the landmark Marriage Equality Bill, warning that the proposals would have created “social apartheid”.

The PN’s proposals to the Bill, that will introduce gay marriage, would have retained the terms ‘mother’, ‘father’, ‘husband’, and ‘wife’ in articles of Maltese law while adding the terms ‘parent’ and ‘spouse’ to cater for married homosexuals.

In an interview on One Radio, Muscat warned that the proposals essentially amounted to legally categorising people based on their sexual orientation.

“It would have created distinctions and discrimination, and would have essentially created an apartheid society because it would have segregated people,” he said.

The Bill is expected to pass into law on Wednesday, during a parliamentary sitting in which – at the Prime Minister’s request – MPs will have to individually declare their votes.

Muscat reiterated that he made this request because he believes that the Marriage Equality Bill will be a “historic vote of conscience” and because he was confused at the reaction to it by several Opposition MPs.

“Many Opposition MPs have harshly criticised this Bill but then said that they will be voting in favour of it next week,” he said. “The PN had said that the last election was about principles, but what sort of principles are these? The people who vote in favour of this Bill should do so because they are proud to do so.”

The Prime Minister said that the parliamentary debate on the Bill proves that Labour and the PN are on “completely different wavelengths” when it comes to addressing LGBT equality.

“Many PN MPs who supported the Bill used the argument that LGBT people must be tolerated, but tolerance means that they are merely accepting them while secretly wishing that they weren’t around,” he said. “Labour isn’t on the level of tolerance, but on the level of celebrating diversity.”

Muscat warned fellow politicians that the rise of civil society in Malta means that they can no longer ignore the signs of the times.

“If politicians believe that they can sweep certain changes under the carpet, then they haven’t yet understood how much our society has changed,” he said, recounting the debates on divorce and the morning after pill that had both been prompted by civil society.

“If politicians don’t recognize these changes and create laws to suit them, then civil society will force these changes upon us.”

During his interview, Muscat also referred to the Labour Party’s upcoming extraordinary general conference, during which PL delegates will choose between ministers Edward Scicluna, Helena Dalli and Chris Fearne as the party’s new deputy leader for parliamentary affairs.

The Prime Minister said that delegates are faced with a choice between three “excellent” candidates and insisted that the party and his Cabinet will remain united regardless of the outcome.

He also said that he will deliver a speech during Thursday’s conference, in which he will outline his vision for the Labour Party.