Malta Becomes World’s 24th Country to Legalize Gay Marriage

Joseph Muscat (C-L), leader of the Labor Party and Maltese Prime Minister, his wife Michelle Muscat (C-R) and and twin daughters Etoile and Solie Sophie wave to the crowd before entering the Auberge de Castille, after he was sworn-in as Prime Minister in Valletta, Malta, 05 June 2017. Muscat's party won the June 3 election with 55.1% of the votes. Photo: Domenic Aquilina/EPA/REX/Shutterstock

  • Malta has become the world’s 24th country, Europe’s 15th, and the EU’s 13th state to legalize gay marriage.
  • Legalization has been introduced through the adoption of a number of amendments to existing laws.
  • It has been supported wholeheartedly by the ruling party and the opposition alike.
  • Just one Maltese MP has voted against gay marriage on the grounds that it is in conflict with the Catholic faith.
  • Malta’s ruling Labor Party says now is the best time for the country.

Malta has in effect legalized gay marriage as its Parliament voted in favor of amendments to existing legislation, making the small EU island nation the 24th country in the world to do so.

Even though the legislation amendments are yet to be signed into by the country’s President, a formality, so they are not in force yet, Malta has practically become the 15th country in Europe and the 13th EU member state to legalize same-sex marriage (the Netherlands led the way in 2001).

At the end of June, Germany became the 23rd country in the world to legalize full-fledged same-sex marriages – even though it had already recognized civil unions for gay couples earlier.

Same-sex marriage is presently legally recognized in a total of 23 countries in Europe, North America, South America, Africa, and Australia: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the UK, the US, and Uruguay – while some other countries recognize same-sex civil unions.

No countries in Asia have legalized gay marriage so far – although Taiwan is very likely to become the first country to do so, after in May 2017, its Constitutional Court found the ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional.

‘Now Reality’

Malta’s Parliament passed on Wednesday amendments to its Marriage Equality Bill (formally titled the Marriage Bills and Other Laws Act), Malta Today reported.

The newly adopted amendments simply changed select words in existing Maltese marriage laws in order to include homosexual couples.

Words such as “husband” and “wife” were replaced with the gender-neutral term “spouse.” The word “parent” replaced “mother” and “father,” while the phrases “the person who gave birth” and “the other parent” were included to be used to describe lesbian couples who have children via medical processes.

The amendments legalizing gay marriage in Malta were adopted with a 66 to 1 vote, as both the ruling Labor Party and the center-right opposition, National Force, supported them.

The only Maltese MP to vote against the motion was Nationalist Edwin Vassalo who objected by arguing that gay marriage was incompatible with the Catholic faith.

Before the vote, Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph 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.

Vassallo who voted against the bill said he had tried to find a compromise that would allow him to declare that he was against the bill while voting with his party.

Although he agreed that the state and church should be separate, he said he was a Christian and could not abandon his religious beliefs on parliament’s doorstep, The Times of Malta reported.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat on his part said the vote represented a historic moment in the Malta’s history.

“Marriage Equality is now reality in Malta. Pledge fulfilled, future sealed,” Muscat tweeted.

“By voting in favor in tonight’s vote on Marriage Equality, PN Malta was on the right side of history,” opposition leader Simon Busuttil tweeted in turn.

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 decriminalization of homosexuality in the 1970s.

‘Best Time’ for Malta

Once Malta’s President signs the bill into law, the landmark bill will introduce changes to the Criminal Code, the Code of Civil Organization and Procedure, the Civil Code, the Interpretation Act, the Marriage Act, the Civil Unions Act and other subsidiary legislation.

“I understand there were a number of MPs who had objections to parts of the law but who still voted in favour in loyalty to the party’s position and for the sake of party unity. I appreciate this and thank them for it,” Malta’s opposition leader Busuttil said.

Though it has been described as one legalizing ‘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, Malta Today notes.

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 favor of the bill, Dalli and her team as well as the Prime Minister for their efforts in creating a fairer society.

In another statement, the Maltese Labor Party said the government led by Joseph Muscat would continue working for equality to really become the country’s foundation leaving behind a legacy for future generations.

“This is the best time for our country,” Malta’s ruling party stated.

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