[WATCH] Malta legalises same-sex marriage, as parliament votes in favour of marriage equality bill

Nationalist MP Edwin Vassallo was the only MP to vote against the bill

Celebrations at Castille Square after parliament  voted in favour to legalise same-sex marriage (Photo: James Bianchi)
Celebrations at Castille Square after parliament voted in favour to legalise same-sex marriage (Photo: James Bianchi)
Malta legalises same-sex marriage, as parliament votes in favour of marriage equality bill

Parliament has approved the controversial Marriage Act and other Laws (Amendment) Act that will make Malta the 15th nation in Europe, and 25th world-wide to legalise same-sex marriages.

All the House’s MPs, with the exception of Nationalist MP Edwin Vassallo, voted in favour of the law, after both the Government and Opposition had publicly declared their support for the bill.

Before the vote, the Prime Muscat asked the Speaker of the House to allow each MP to stand and state their vote, if the Opposition was in agreement.

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said that the Opposition would be asking for the House’s standard procedure to be respected.

Nationalist MP Edwin Vassallo who voted against the bill after its second reading gave a brief statement before the vote where said that in days leading to the vote, he had tried to find a compromise that would allow him to declare that he is against the bill while voting with his party.

He said that the was aware that he lived in a secular state where there was the separation of church and state, adding however that he could not leave his conscience at parliament’s doorstep. He said that with respect to what he believes in and to parliamentary democracy he would not be voting in favour of the law.

Speaking outside parliament after the vote, PN leader Simon Busuttil expressed his satisfaction at parliament approving the bill, while refusing to comment on whether the party would be taking disciplinary action against Vassallo, who defied the Opposition whip by voting against the bill

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on his part said the vote represented a historic moment in the country’s history. He said that despite objections by some, time would eventually show that the decision was a right one. Muscat pointed out that similar concerns had been raised before the introductions of civil unions and divorce, as well as the introduction of civil marriage and the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the 70s.

The bill will now be presented to the President who must sign it before it becomes law.

Once this happens, the landmark bill – which is intended to modernise the institution of marriage - will introduce changes to the Criminal Code, the Code of Civil Organisation and Procedure, the Civil Code, the Interpretation Act, the Marriage Act, the Civil Unions Act and other subsidiary legislation.

Though it has been described as one legalising ‘gay marriage’, its scope is broader, and will offer, amongst other things, the removal of the obligation for married couples to adopt the husband’s last name.

In a comment following the vote, AD Deputy Chairperson Carmel Cacopardo said: "Our country has shown maturity on approving in Parliament, nearly unanimously the marriage equality law."

"Parliament is accepting a pluralism of values and decided to respect everyone equally. It is time now for a unfying discourse because as a
country we need to show respect to each and every member of society. We need to realise that we are a society with a plurality of values which all deserve the utmost respect. It is a real shame that instead of acceptance some deem different values to theirs as 'immoral'. It is possible to disagree but insulting people because they have different values than one's own is not on. A society with a plurality of values is a fact and nobody will or can change that."

Members of the LGBTIQ Consultative Council
Members of the LGBTIQ Consultative Council

Celebrations at Castille Square

People had started to gather in front of Castille as MPs were voting in the House. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat together with Equality minister Helena Dalli and LGBTIQ Consultative Council were given a warm welcome as they entered the square.

Also present were finance minister Edward Scicluna, PN deputy leader Mario DeMarco, and a number of other Government MPs.

Malta Gay Rights Movement spokeswoman Gabi Calleja also described the day as historic, adding that the new law was important because “everyone aspires to one day marry”.

“Nobody asks you whether you want to enter into a civil union in the future,” she said.

Calleja thanked all the MPs who voted in favour of the bill, Dalli and her team as well as the Prime Minister for their efforts in creating a fairer society.