Recognition of same-sex unions in Malta

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Legal status of same-sex unions
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  3. When performed in Mexican states that have legalized same-sex marriage
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* Not yet in effect

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Malta allows civil unions, following the enactment of the Civil Unions Act 2014, first introduced in September 2013. It grants civil unions the same rights, responsibilities, and obligations as marriage, including the right of joint adoption. Parliament gave final approval to the legislation on 14 April 2014 by a vote of 37 in favour and 30 abstentions. It was signed into law by President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca on 16 April and published in the government's gazette on 17 April. The first civil union was performed on 13 June 2014.

Political party viewpoints[edit]

Before the 2008 elections, the Malta Gay Rights Movement sent a survey to all major political parties asking them for their views on the recognition of same-sex unions. None of the parties supported same-sex marriage. However, all of them supported recognition of same-sex unions to some extent. The governing Nationalist Party supported extending some rights to cohabitating same-sex couples. The Labour Party supported recognising "same-sex families and partnerships", although it was unknown whether this would be in the form of unregistered cohabitation or registered partnership. National Action supported civil partnerships that would grant to same-sex couples some of the rights extended to married couples, not including welfare benefits. Democratic Alternative/Greens supported civil partnerships providing all of the rights of marriage.[1]

Civil unions[edit]

Civil Partnerships and Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Bill 2012[edit]

On 28 March 2010, then Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi announced that the Government was working on a bill to regulate cohabitation. He said he hoped the bill would be completed by the end of the year.[2][3][4] On 11 July, Gonzi confirmed that the bill would be presented to Parliament by the end of 2010.[5][6] The draft bill was presented by the Minister of Justice on 28 August 2012 and was under consultation process until 30 September.[7][8] The bill was introduced, but died in December 2012 due to the fall of the Government and expected dissolution of Parliament.[9][10]

Civil Unions Act 2014[edit]

During the 2013 elections campaign, the Labour Party announced its intention to introduce legislation to allow for civil unions for same-sex couples if elected in government. This was set to materialise by Summer 2013, but was postponed until 2014.[11] Helena Dalli, Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties, said that legalising same-sex marriage would require a referendum, and that the Government did not intend to put the issue to a popular vote.[12]

On 30 September 2013, the first day of the new legislative session, the Parliament of Malta held the first reading of the Civil Unions Bill,[13] which was published on 14 October 2013. The legislation establishes civil unions for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples with the same rights as those available to married couples,[14] including joint adoption rights.[15] Despite the fact that people in Malta regardless of sexual orientation were already able to adopt as individuals,[16] opponents made adoption rights the focus of their objections to the legislation.[17] In his 2013 Christmas sermon, Roman Catholic Bishop Charles J. Scicluna condemned adoption by same-sex couples and said Pope Francis had told him to take a public stand against it.[18] On 25 February 2014, the bill passed committee stage. The third reading was postponed because then-President George Abela indicated he would not sign it.[19] Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, who indicated she would sign it, became President on 4 April.[20] The bill was approved in its third reading on 14 April in a 37 to 0 vote, with all Labour Party members in favor and all members of the opposition Nationalist Party abstaining.[21] It was signed into law by President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca on 16 April and published in the government's gazette on 17 April.[22][23] The first civil union was performed on 13 June 2014.[24][25] On 20 June 2014, the Ministry for Home Affairs and National Security published a regulations, based on which, the country recognises same-sex marriages performed abroad, regarded by the Ministry as having equivalent status to Malta's civil unions.[26]

A Roman Catholic Dominican priest, acting contrary to church guidelines, blessed the rings of a gay male couple in an engagement ceremony in April 2015.[27][28]


47 civil unions were registered by April 2015, a year after civil unions were introduced.[29]

By November 2016, 153 same-sex civil unions were registered in the country.[30]

Same-sex marriage[edit]

In March 2016, Prime Minister of Malta and leader of the governing Labour Party Joseph Muscat stated at an International Women's Day event that he was personally in favour of legalising same-sex marriage in the country and that it was "time for a national debate" on the issue.[31] The opposition Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil responded by stating that though the Government was attempting to use the issue of same-sex marriage to distract from a government scandal, he could foresee no difficulty in amending Malta's civil union legislation of 2014 to legalise same-sex marriage.[31] The country's leading gay rights organisation subsequently called for a bill to be put forward opening up marriage to all couples irrespective of gender without delay.[32]

Public opinion[edit]

A Eurostat poll conducted in 2006 showed Malta at 18% support for same-sex marriage.[33]

However, support among young people appears to be much higher. An October 2009 poll showed that 49% of university students supported same-sex marriage, while 35% were opposed and 16% were undecided.[34] A poll conducted in October 2011 found that 56.5% of university students supported same-sex marriage.[35]

On June 2012, a poll commissioned by Malta Today found support for same-sex marriage at a record high, with 60% of people aged 18–35 supporting same-sex marriage. The poll found a generational gap, with only 23% of people older than 55 supporting the change. Overall, the poll found that 41% of the population were in favor of same-sex marriage and that 52% were against it,[36] a big change in comparison to 2006, when only 18% of the population supported it.[33]

A November 2013 survey showed that 69.9% supported the legislation of civil unions. However, at the same time, only 24.7% supported the right of same-sex couples to adopt.[37]

The 2015 Eurobarometer found that 65% of Maltese respondents thought that same-sex marriage should be allowed throughout Europe, 29% were against.[38]

An April 2016 The Malta Independent poll found that 61% of Maltese respondents favoured same-sex marriage, with 25% opposed to same-sex marriage, 10.1% responding "don't care" and 3.7% unsure.[39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Political Front - Malta Gay Rights Movement
  2. ^ Government drafting law on cohabitation
  3. ^ Cohabitation law in the works - PM
  4. ^ Feedback sought on cohabitation Bill
  5. ^ New cohabitation law to be presented in Parliament by end of year
  6. ^ Cohabitation bill to be moved by end of year - PM
  7. ^ Cohabitation bill recognises same-sex couples but not families, JPO to propose amendments
  8. ^ Cohabitation Bill launched: Gay couples ‘are not a family’ – Chris Said
  9. ^ Civil Partnerships and Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Bill
  10. ^ Cohabitation among 15 Bills put on hold
  11. ^ Bill on same-sex civil unions by summer, Times of Malta
  12. ^ "Civil partnership bill expected after summer". Malta Today. 5 June 2013. 
  13. ^ "Parliament meets today - Bill on Civil Unions tops agenda". Times of Malta. 30 September 2013. 
  14. ^ Bill No. 20 - Civil Unions Bill
  15. ^ "Parliament debates 'gay marriage' Bill". The Malta Independent. 22 October 2013. 
  16. ^ Calleja, Gabi (16 October 2012). "Of gays and adoption". Malta Star. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  17. ^ "Same sex unions approved - Celebrations in Valletta - Opposition abstains because of adoptions". Times of Malta. 14 April 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  18. ^ Gander, Kashmira (30 December 2013). "Pope Francis 'shocked' by gay adoption says Bishop of Malta". The Independent (UK). Retrieved 16 April 2014. 
  19. ^ "PM silent as President refuses to sign Civil Unions Bill". Times of Malta. March 27, 2014. Retrieved April 15, 2014. 
  20. ^ "President-designate would have no problem signing Civil Unions Bill". Times of Malta. 5 March 2014. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  21. ^ "Same sex unions become legal - Celebrations in Valletta; Opposition abstains because of adoptions". The Times of Malta. 14 April 2014. 
  22. ^ Camilleri, Neil (17 April 2014). "President signs 'gay marriage' Bill". Malta Independent. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  23. ^ "Government Notices published in Govt. Gazette No. 19,239 of 17th April 2014". Government of Malta. 17 April 2014. Retrieved 2 April 2015. 
  24. ^ "First civil union registered on Friday". Malta Independent. 17 June 2014. Retrieved 17 June 2014. 
  25. ^ (Maltese) "L-ewwel unjoni ċivili se ssir f'Għawdex". iNews Malta. 8 June 2014. Retrieved 17 June 2014. 
  26. ^ (Maltese) "Se jibdew jiġu rrikonoxxuti unjonijiet ċivili barranin". iNews Malta. 20 June 2014. Retrieved 21 June 2014. 
  27. ^ Priest Blesses Same-Gender Couple’s Engagement in Malta; Archbishop Remains Calm/
  28. ^ Controversial priest blesses rings at gay couple’s engagement ceremony
  29. ^ "A year from introduction of civil unions, 47 gay couples tie the knot in Malta and Gozo". Malta Independent. 14 April 2015. 
  30. ^ 153 same-sex couples have registered for civil unions in Malta
  31. ^ a b "'I am in favour of gay marriage, time for debate on the matter' - Joseph Muscat". Times of Malta. 4 March 2016. 
  32. ^ "MGRM tersely welcomes declarations on introduction of gay marriage". Malta Independent. 5 March 2016. 
  33. ^ a b Eight EU Countries Back Same-Sex Marriage
  34. ^ Half of University students agree with gay marriage - survey
  35. ^ Survey shows majority of University students back same-sex marriage
  36. ^ "Heartening change in attitudes to put gay unions on political agenda". Malta Today. 5 June 2012. 
  37. ^ MaltaToday survey | Majority favour ‘civil unions’ but not gay adoption
  38. ^ Special Eurobarometer 437
  39. ^ "ISurvey: 61% ready to change gay civil union into marriage". The Malta Independent. 20 April 2016. 

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