LGBT rights in Malta

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LGBT rights in Malta
Location of  Malta  (dark green)– in Europe  (light green & dark grey)– in the European Union  (light green)  –  [Legend]
Location of  Malta  (dark green)

– in Europe  (light green & dark grey)
– in the European Union  (light green)  –  [Legend]

Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1973
Gender identity/expression May change the indication of sex in official documentation
Military service Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protections Yes (both sexual orientation and gender identity)
Family rights
Recognition of
Civil unions since 2014
Adoption Yes, as individuals and jointly if in a civil union

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Malta have evolved significantly over the course of the last decades. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity have been legal in Malta since 1973.

Gender identity and intersex protection laws in Malta are of the highest standard in the world under the Gender Identity, Gender Expression And Sex Characteristics Act.[1] A law passed creating civil unions equal to marriage in all but name, with the same rights and obligations including joint adoption rights, was enacted in April 2014. However, same-sex marriage and both IVF and surrogacy access are still banned for same-sex couples.

In October 2015, the European region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA-Europe) ranked Malta 1st in terms of LGBT rights out of 49 observed European countries.[2][3]


As a British colony, Malta adopted the penal code of Great Britain which criminalised same-sex relations between men. There are examples of individuals caught out by the law - including the lawyer, Guglielmo Rapinett who was arrested for lewd behaviour in the 19th century while trying to seduce a guard.[4][5][6] Only in 1973 did the Labour government decide to change Malta's laws to match those of Western Europe.[7]

The Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM), founded in 2001, is a socio-political non-governmental organisation that has as its central focus the challenges and rights of the Maltese LGBT community.[8]

In February 2008, MGRM organised and presented a petition to parliament asking for a range of measures to be introduced to protect them through the law. The petition was signed by more than 1,000 people and asked for legal recognition of same-sex couples, an anti-homophobic bullying strategy for the island nation's schools and new laws targeting homophobic and transphobic crimes. The petition received the backing of Alternattiva Demokratika. Harry Vassallo, its leader, said that the recognition of gay rights would be a step forward.[citation needed]

In October 2009, George Abela, the president of Malta, met with the board of the European Region of ILGA at the presidential palace as the group prepared to open its 13th annual conference in Malta. Abela agreed that information and education were important in tackling discrimination and fostering acceptance of differences and that Malta has seen progress in LGBT acceptance. He was said that "love is the most important thing there is and it can't be 'graded' based on sexual orientation". It the first time a head of state met with ILGA-Europe members during one of the group's annual conferences.[9]

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity has been legal in Malta since January 1973.[10][11] The age of consent is equal at 18 for all.[12]

Gender identity/expression[edit]

In September 2006, Joanne Cassar, a transsexual woman, was denied the right to marry her partner. In 2007 a judge in Malta ordered government officials to issue her the appropriate documentation.[13] The Director of Public Registry successfully contested that ruling in May 2008. Cassar filed a constitutional application in the First Hall of the Civil Court charging a violation of her fundamental human rights. She won that case initially, but lost on appeal in 2011.[14] In April 2013, she reached a settlement with the government that included financial compensation in addition to promised statutory changes.[15] A leader of the Nationalist Party apologised for its part in contesting Cassar's right to marry.[16]

In April 2014, Malta became the first European state to add recognition of gender identity to its constitution as a protected category.[17]

In April 2015, Malta became the first country in the world to outlaw sterilisation and invasive surgery on intersex people. Also applicants can change their gender identity documents by simply filing an affidavit with a notary, eliminating any requirement for medical gender reassignment procedures under the Gender Identity, Gender Expression And Sex Characteristics Act.[1][18][19]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

On 28 March 2010, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi announced that the Government was working on a bill to regulate cohabitation—which would include rights for same-sex couples.[citation needed]

Following a campaign promise during the 2013 elections the Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs, and Civil Liberties of the newly elected Labour government announced that the government was entering consultations for a bill granting civil unions to same-sex couples, with the bill presented in Parliament on 30 September 2013.[20]

The Civil Unions Bill, which gives LGBT couples rights equivalent to marriage, including the legal right to adopt children jointly, under the legal name civil union rather than marriage, was debated in October 2013[21] and approved at the third reading on 14 April 2014. President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca signed it into law on 16 April and it took effect in 1 June 2014.[22]

Religious blessing of same-sex unions[edit]

A Roman Catholic Dominican priest, acting contrary to church guidelines,[23] blessed the rings of a gay male couple in an engagement ceremony in April 2015.[24][25][26]

Public opinion[edit]

Polls have indicated a quick and drastic shift in public opinion on LGBT rights in Malta.

The 2006 Eurobarometer survey found that 18% of the population supported same-sex marriage whereas 73% were against (63% totally against). Adoption by same-sex couples was supported by 7% and opposed by 85% (76% totally opposed).[27]

In June 2012, a poll commissioned by MaltaToday news website found that support for same-sex marriage had increased significantly, with 41% of the population in favour of same-sex marriage and 52% against it.[28] The 2012 data also showed a generational gap, with only 23% of people older than 55 supporting the legalisation of same-sex marriage while 60% of those aged 18–35 did so.

The 2015 Eurobarometer found a majority of 65% in favour of same-sex marriage, with 29% against. This was the largest increase in support of any country surveyed in the Eurobarometer compared to the 2006 results.[29]

Adoption, Surrogacy and IVF[edit]

Maltese law grants adoption rights to married couples and single persons, including individual gays and lesbians. Since April 2014, same-sex couples in a civil union can jointly adopt.[30][31]

Surrogacy is illegal regardless and IVF access for single women and lesbians is illegal under the Embryo Protection Act 2012.[32]

On 7 September 2015, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced that the government will introduce the bill to allow IVF access for female same-sex couples, among others.[33]

Discrimination protections[edit]

Since 2004, Malta has a ban on anti-gay discrimination in employment, in line with European Union requirements.[34] Anti-discrimination protections were expanded in June 2012.[35]

In June 2012, the parliament amended the Criminal Code to prohibit hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity.[36][37][38]

On 14 April 2014, the Parliament of Malta unanimously approved a bill which amends the Constitution to add protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.[39] It was signed by the President on 17 April 2014.[40]

In 2015 the donation of reading material by the MGRM, that contained the teaching of diverse[41] families including gay parenting, to the education department caused some controversy. The education minister took a position not to distribute the material, questioning both directly inclusion and indirectly discrimination.[42]

Sexual orientation conversion therapy[edit]

There is a proposal by the Malta Government to ban sexual orientation or gender identity conversion therapy on minors. A bill is yet to be drafted.[43]

Living conditions[edit]

In July 2007, Malta's Union of Teachers threatened to publish the details of four attempts to oust gay and lesbian teachers from Roman Catholic school posts. According to the union, Church schools were under pressure from parents to fire the teachers, leading to four interventions in the past five years.[44][45]

There are a few gay clubs in Floriana, including Tom Bar, which is the oldest gay club in Malta, as well as Monaliza in Paceville and Valletta.[46][47][48]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1973)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 1973)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment Yes (Since 2004)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes (Since 2012)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes (Since 2012)
Recognition of same-sex couples (e.g. civil unions) Yes (Since 2014)
Same-sex marriage Yes/No (same-sex marriage from abroad is recognized since 2014)
Adoption by single LGBT person Yes (Since 2008)
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2014)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2014)
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military Yes (Since 2002)
Right to change legal gender Yes (Since 2015)
Intersex minors protected from invasive surgical procedures Yes (Since 2015)
Sexual orientation conversion therapy banned on minors No (Proposed)[43]
Access to surrogacy for LGBT men and IVF for LGBT women No (surrogacy banned regardless of sexual orientation)[49]
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b [1]
  2. ^ Malta ranks first in European ‘rainbow map’ of LGBTIQ rights
  3. ^ Rainbow Europe Country ranking
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Aldrich R. & Wotherspoon G., Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History, from Antiquity to WWII, Routledge, London, 2001
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Maltese President Meets with ILGA-Europe (Baltimore Gay Life - Maryland's LGBT Community Newspaper)". Baltimore Gay Life. 12 November 2009. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  10. ^ "". 6 August 2010. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  11. ^ "Dr Inġ. Patrick Attard: Library on Gay-Rights in Malta and Beyond: Leħen is-Sewwa 1973: Ittra Pastorali kontra d-Dekriminilazzjoni ta' l-Omosesswalità". Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  12. ^ "Malta". Age of Consent. 20 August 1998. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  13. ^ "Malta transsexual given permission to marry". Pink News. 16 February 2007. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  14. ^ "Joanne Cassar loses transsexual marriage case". Times of Malta. 23 May 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  15. ^ Borg, Annaliza (16 April 2013). "Settlement between Joanne Cassar and government signed". Malta Independent. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  16. ^ Balzan, Jurgen (10 June 2013). "De Marco says PN government let transgender persons down". Malta Today. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  17. ^ Dalli, Miriam (16 April 2014). "Transgender Europe applauds Malta for naming gender identity". Malta Today. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  18. ^ Bill No. 70 - Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Bill
  19. ^ Malta scraps surgery and sterilisation measures and passes protections for intersex people
  20. ^ "Parliament meets today - Bill on Civil Unions tops agenda". Timesof Malta. 30 September 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2014. 
  21. ^ "Civil Unions law will give same sex couples same rights, duties, as married couples". 14 October 2013. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  22. ^ Camilleri, Neil (17 April 2014). "President signs 'gay marriage' Bill". Malta Independent. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ "EUROBAROMETER 66 FIRST RESULTS" (PDF). TNS. European Commission. December 2006. p. 80. Retrieved 6 August 2014. 
  28. ^ Vella, Matthew (5 June 2012). "Heartening change in attitudes to put gay unions on political agenda". MaltaToday. Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  29. ^ "Special Eurobarometer 437: discrimination in the EU in 2015" (PDF). TNS. European Commission. October 2015. p. 373. Retrieved 10 October 2015. 
  30. ^ Calleja, Claudia (16 January 2013). "Consensus over gay adoption welcomed". Times of Malta. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  31. ^ White, Hilary (31 March 2014). "Maltese president refuses to sign bill allowing gay civil unions and expanding gay adoption". Life Site News. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  32. ^ AN ACT to provide for the protection of human embryos and other ancillary matters
  33. ^ Prime Minister ‘resolute on embryo freezing’
  34. ^ Malta's gay group ask for equal rights, Pink News, 21 February 2008
  35. ^ AN ACT to amend the Equality for Men and Women Act, Cap. 456
  36. ^ AN ACT to amend the Criminal Code, Cap. 9
  37. ^ Malta: Gender identity and sexual orientation included in hate crime laws
  38. ^ Gay rights movement welcomes passing of hate crimes amendments
  39. ^ Bill No. 18 - Constitution of Malta (Amendment) Bill
  40. ^ AN ACT to amend the Constitution of Malta
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^ a b Diacono, Tim (16 June 2015). "Gay 'conversion therapy' could become a criminal offence". Malta Today. Archived from the original on 17 June 2015. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  44. ^ MUT stops Church from firing gay teachers
  45. ^ Malta teachers take on Roman Catholic homophobia
  46. ^ Grech, Joseph (14 January 2013). "Party in the sun on Malta". Gay Star News. Retrieved 23 August 2014. 
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^

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