Equality Minister’s photo with Malta flag showing gay pride colours raises ire

Nationalist Party exponents outraged over harmless symbolic photo showing Malta flag sporting pride colours instead of red band

Edward Zammit Lewis posing with a symbolic Maltese flag showing the rainbow colours
Edward Zammit Lewis posing with a symbolic Maltese flag showing the rainbow colours

Updated at 3.30pm with Zammit Lewis's comment

In the silly season, it does not take much for social media to go into a frenzy over innocuous things and the latest outrage was unsuspectingly caused by Edward Zammit Lewis.

The Equality Minister was photographed posing with a Maltese flag sporting the rainbow stripes instead of the red band.

It was a harmless photo, part of the preparations for the annual gay pride parade being organised by the Malta Gay Rights Movement and Allied Rainbow Community, which the government is supporting.

But the mere introduction of the rainbow colours in a stylised Maltese flag to serve as a symbol of this country’s decision to embrace the rights of LQBTIQ irked some people with comments such as “leave our flag alone”.

The outraged brigade included conservative Nationalist Party MP Edwin Vassallo and the PN mayor of Nadur, Edward Said.

Vassallo insisted that he believed in equality and went on a tirade, scandalised by the minister’s decision to pose with the flag. “Equality means respecting diversity, but now it is as if there is a minority that is ruling over the majority. Do we know what we are doing? Why? Equality does not mean someone enjoys more rights than others, Mr Minister.”

Said was also sullied by the use of the symbolic Maltese flag. “While I am in favour of the Malta Pride initiative and the Nadur local council will be participating, I believe the Maltese flag is red and white and there is no scope to tamper with it.”

A gay rights activist was forced to reassure people that there was no attempt to change the colours of the Maltese flag and the gesture was simply a show of pride in Malta’s progress on equality.

Others were quick to point out the ridiculousness of the concerns raised by social media users, defending Zammit Lewis’s action.

A photo of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau waving his country’s flag bedecked in rainbow colours was widely circulated.

In a Facebook post, TV presenter Brian Hansford noted the hypocrisy of those feeling scandalised now when the Maltese flag was also used as part of much larger flags with the emblems of the two major political parties, during mass meetings.

Asked for his reaction, Zammit Lewis said the photo speaks for itself as regards to its intention.

"There is absolutely no doubt about my full respect to the Maltese flag and I assure you that I work hard everyday to serve the Maltese people to the best of my abilities. I am also privileged to work within a government that implemented unprecedented and numerous measures as regards to civil liberties," the Equality Minister told MaltaToday.

It takes a sultry, slow August day and rainbow colours to get some people hot under the collar, while exposing the long road to true acceptance this country still has to run.

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