John M. Becker

Malta Passes Civil Unions, Adds Trans Rights to Constitution

Filed By John M. Becker | April 16, 2014 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: civil unions, constitution, Europe, gay marriage, gender identity, Malta, marriage equality, Pope Francis, relationship recognition, same-sex marriage, trans rights

malta-civil-unions-celebration.jpgOn Monday, as expected, lawmakers in the tiny and overwhelmingly Catholic European republic of Malta passed a bill legalizing civil unions for same-sex couples, over the reported objections of Pope Francis.

The vote was 37 members in favor and 30 members abstaining; the abstentions came from members of the opposition party, who agreed with civil unions but opposed extending adoption rights to same-sex couples.

The Times of Malta reports that equality supporters who gathered outside Parliament for the historic occasion burst into applause:

The controversial law on civil unions was approved by Parliament this evening amid loud cheers and celebrations by about 1,000 people who gathered on Palace Square...

There was an explosion of cheers in Palace Square as the vote was taken... the fa├žade of the palace was lit in the rainbow colours. Earlier Dr Muscat was greeted with applause as he arrived at Palace Square on his way to Parliament. Other Labour MPs arrived wearing the colours of the gay community on their lapels.

Some of those present set up a big wedding cake on the square. Others said they were already preparing their union, now that the bill was becoming law. Sparklers and wedding veils were handed out. There were cheers and cries of 'Joseph, Joseph' when Dr. Muscat emerged from the Palace after the vote, and loud boos and cries of 'shame on you' for the Opposition MPs.

Dr. Muscat addressed the crowd from a stage on one side of the square. This, he said, was a historic day and he was proud to be one of those 20 per cent in favour of civil unions. He then repeated parts of the speech he made earlier in Parliament.

One of those present, a young man, said: "I am feeling privileged to be witnessing history and experiencing equality this early in my lifetime when so many others were forced to wait their entire lives in vain. Tonight's party in Valletta is not for people like me but for all those who fought their whole lives to be able to celebrate their love without distinction but did not live to see this day."

As if that weren't amazing enough, Maltese lawmakers did another incredible thing: they became the first country in Europe to add gender identity protections to their national constitution.

Details after the jump.

PinkNews reports:

Transgender Europe (TGEU) Executive Director Julia Ehrt, said: "This is fantastic news! It has been a long way for Malta, and we congratulate the activists who have fought over all the years for the recognition and protection of transgender people."

TGEU Policy Officer Richard Kohler added: "It is a signal also for other countries to uplift transgender identities out of the shadows of prejudice and misconception and say loud and clear: we stand proudly by our transgender population."

Through the changes in law, parliament strengthened anti-discrimination legislation to better protect trans people, and a proposal for gender recognition procedures is in preparation.

Gay Star News adds:

The small, largely Catholic country is now the first European nation to have gender identity anchored in its highest legal text.

It was only in 2011 that Malta legislated in favor of divorce. But with three years of changes in law, trans people who have changed their gender are [also] now able to legally enter into a marriage.

Congratulations, Malta, on taking these two huge steps toward LGBT equality. Well done!

Watch video footage of the celebrations in Malta on Monday night:

Image via Times of Malta.

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