Same-sex marriage in Malta

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Legal status of same-sex unions
Marriage
Performed
Recognized
  1. Marriages performed in some municipalities and recognized by the state
  2. For some purposes, from all jurisdictions where same-sex marriage is legal
  3. When performed in Mexican states that have legalized same-sex marriage
  4. When performed in the Netherlands proper
  5. Registration schemes opened in all jurisdictions except Hualien County, Penghu County, Taitung County, and Yunlin County

* Not yet in effect

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Same-sex marriage became legal in Malta on 1 September 2017. A bill for legalisation passed the Parliament on 12 July 2017. It was signed by the President on 1 August 2017. On 25 August, the Minister for Equality issued a legal notice to commence the law on 1 September 2017.

The country also allows civil unions, following the enactment of the Civil Unions Act 2014. 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.

Civil unions[edit]

Laws regarding same-sex partnerships in Europe
  Marriage1
  Foreign marriages recognized1
  Other type of partnership1
  Unregistered cohabitation1
  Unrecognized
  Constitution limits marriage to opposite-sex couples

1May include recent laws or court decisions which have created legal recognition of same-sex relationships, but which have not entered into effect yet.

History[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 Partnerships Bill 2012[edit]

On 28 March 2010, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi announced that the Government was working on a bill to regulate cohabitation, intended to be completed by the end of the year.[2][3][4][5][6] The draft bill (known as the Civil Partnerships and Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Bill 2012) was presented by the Minister of Justice on 28 August 2012, and a consultation process lasted until 30 September.[7][8] The bill was introduced, but died in December 2012 due to the fall of the Government and 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, the 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 unions registered abroad, regarded by the Ministry as having equivalent status to Malta's civil unions.[26] Since 1 September 2017, couples in a civil union can convert their union into marriage within five years from the coming into force of the Marriage Act and other Laws (Amendment) Act, 2017 (until 2022).[27]

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.[28][29]

Statistics[edit]

47 civil unions were registered by April 2015, a year after civil unions were introduced.[30]

By November 2016, 153 same-sex civil unions were registered in the country.[31]

Cohabitation Act 2017[edit]

On 3 April 2017, the Maltese Parliament approved the Cohabitation Act 2017. The act recognises cohabiting couples who have been living together for at least two years and gives cohabitants more rights pertaining to parental- and medical decisions, among others. The act defines cohabitation as between two people, regardless of gender. President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca signed the act into law on 7 April.[32]

Same-sex marriage[edit]

History[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.[33] 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.[33] 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.[34]

On 21 February 2017, Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties Helena Dalli said that she was preparing a bill to legalise same-sex marriage.[35][36] The next day, Dalli stated that it was up to the Cabinet to decide whether the bill would be introduced to Parliament before the next election, provisionally scheduled for 2018.[37][38] However, on 1 May snap elections were called for 3 June 2017, delaying the issue to the next legislative term. Of the major parties, Prime Minister and Labour Party leader Joseph Muscat stated that his party would promptly introduce a bill to legalise same-sex marriage if re-elected,[39][40] whilst Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil confirmed that his party's electoral manifesto would include support for same-sex marriage.[41]

Marriage Act 2017[edit]

After the Labor Party won the election comfortably, Prime Minister Muscat stated that the Government intended to pass same-sex marriage legislation in the Parliament before the end of summer.[42] On 18 June 2017, the Prime Minister announced that the same-sex marriage legislation would go through both readings on the first day of the parliamentary session, which would start on the week of June 26.[43][44][45] On 23 June 2017, the Nationalist Party confirmed its intention to vote in favour of the bill, and introduce amendments at the committee stage.[46][47][48][49][50]

On 24 June 2017, the first reading of the bill (titled Marriage Act and other Laws (Amendment) Bill) was moved during the State Opening of Parliament.[51][52] However, a number of PN MPs raised concerns about parts of the law, specifically sections which replaced gender-specific references with gender-neutral terminology, and raised the prospect of the PN having a free vote on the bill.[53] The bill's second reading started on 26 June.[54][55] Both Democratic Party (PD) MP's announced their intention to support the bill the same day.[56][57] The second reading of the bill was completed on 5 July, with every MP voting in favour except PN Deputy Edwin Vassallo.[58][59][60] The bill passed through the committee stage in the Consideration of Bills Committee, which occurred on 6, 7 and 10 July. The committee rejected all amendmends proposed by the Nationalist Party.[61][62][63] On 12 July, the bill passed its third reading by a vote of 66–1, with every MP voting in favour except Vassallo.[64][65][66] It was signed into law by President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca on 1 August 2017.[67][68] On 25 August, the Minister for Equality issued a legal notice to commence the law on 1 September 2017.[69][70][71][72]

Public opinion[edit]

A Eurostat poll conducted in 2006 showed Malta at 18% support for same-sex marriage.[73]

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.[74] A poll conducted in October 2011 found that 56.5% of university students supported same-sex marriage.[75]

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 favour of same-sex marriage and that 52% were against it,[76] a big change in comparison to 2006, when only 18% of the population supported it.[73]

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.[77]

The 2015 Eurobarometer found that 65% of Maltese respondents thought that same-sex marriage should be allowed throughout Europe, 29% were against.[78]

An April 2016 poll from The Malta Independent 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.[79]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  78. ^ Special Eurobarometer 437
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External links[edit]