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16th Jan 2019

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Malta legalises same-sex marriage

  • Gay pride in Malta. The coutry became the unlikely champion for LGBTIQ rights (Photo: Aditus)

Lawmakers on the predominantly Catholic island of Malta voted to legalise same-sex marriage by 66 votes to 1 on Wednesday evening (12 July).

Prime minister Joseph Muscat called it a "historic vote". He said that "this shows that our democracy and society have reached a level of maturity and we can now say that we are all equal."

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The vote fulfilled Muscat's promise to make equal marriage the first bill brought before the parliament in his new term in office, which began last month.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the Auberge de Castille, the prime minister's office in Valletta, to celebrate as the building was lit up in rainbow colours with the words "We made history" projected onto it.

The vote marks a milestone for Malta, a deeply catholic country of 440,000 inhabitants. It also made divorce legal in 2011 by referendum, and introduced civil partnerships in 2014.

Muscat had said it would be "discriminatory" to have separate laws for mixed and same-sex couples.

Thus, the amendments to the marriage act removed words such as "husband" and "wife", replacing them with the more gender-neutral "spouse".

"Mother" and "father" were also removed, with "parent who gave birth" and "parent who did not give birth" being introduced instead. A 2014 piece of legislation also allows for same sex couples to adopt children.

Legal abortion still remains outlawed on the island.

The opposition centre-right Nationalist Party (PN) also supported the bill.

PN leader Simon Busuttil said on Twitter that his party was "on the right side of history."

The only MP who did not vote for the bill said he could not support it because of his faith. "As a Christian politician, I cannot leave my conscience outside the door" when voting, PN's Edwin Vassallo was quoted by AP as saying.

Malta became the 13th EU country to introduce same-sex marriage. Two weeks prior, Germany had also voted to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Political games behind Germany's gay marriage vote

Gay marriage was adopted in a snap vote at the German parliament on Friday. But lesbians and gays acquired this right after German chancellor Angela Merkel tried to sabotage the electoral campaigns of her opponents.

EU court bars tests for gay asylum seekers

Authorities in EU countries can no longer impose controversial psychological tests to determine whether an aslyum seeker is telling the truth about their homosexuality.

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