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News | Wednesday, 26 May 2010 Issue. 165

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Gay rights group lists seven priorities

It’s not just in football that Malta tends to under-perform: according to the Rainbow Europe Country index, a report compiled by the International Gay and Lesbian Organisation, Malta scored the barest minimum possible (one point out of a maximum 10) for legislation protecting LGBT persons.
Gaby Calleja, chairperson of the Malta Gay Rights Movement, is not particularly surprised.
“Malta still lags very far behind when it comes to legislation and implementation,” she points out before listing seven key areas where the MGRM feels there is ample room for iprovement.
These are: equality; the provision of goods and services; legislation to allow transsexual people to marry; identity issues concerning transgender individuals; recognition of same-sex unions; reproductive rights, and finally; adoption.
Gaby Calleja agreed to walk us through them on by one.
1) With legislation as it stands, the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality does not have the remit to address issues of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. MGRM feels its remit should be extended accordingly.
2) There is nothing in Maltese law at the moment to prevent (for example) a hotel or restaurant from denying persons a service because they are a same-sex couple... which is the most common form this kind of prejudice takes, though there are others.
3) The main issues at stake here all surfaced in the recent case brought against the Marriage Registrar by Joanna Cassar: born male, but registered as a woman after successfully undergoing gender reassignment therapy. Despite having had her new sex formally acknowledged by means of a revised birth certificate – and initially winning a lawsuit against the registrar of marriages, who initially refused to issue the relevant marriage banns – Cassar was nonetheless denied the ability to get married after the registrar successfully appealed against the first judgement.
The second ruling was condemned by the MGRM – among others – on the grounds that it defied case law as established by the European Court of Human Rights, namely Christine Goodwin vs. UK. The matter is now subject to a Constitutional court case, and the next hearing is scheduled for June 23.
4) Transgender people still face considerable legal difficulties in having their new gender recognised at law: for instance, in the issuing of ID cards. The law itself is also particularly stringent, as it only considers a person at post-op stage, and even then, the authorities insist on a full medical examination, which the MGRM feels is invasive.
5) The issue here is marriage equality – if not marriage itself – and as such Calleja stresses that MGRM is not in favour of cohabitation legislation aimed merely at recognising partnerships without supplying corresponding rights and obligations. Instead, the association is pressing for the recognition of full civil unions on a par with marriage.
6) Technically this is an issue where legislation is non-existent for all members of society, regardless of sexual orientation. Malta in fact still lacks a legislative framework for assisted fertility, although parliament’s social affairs committee is currently debating a proposed bill. Issues such as IVF, surrogate motherhood, etc., are of particular relevance to same-sex couples, and the MGRM has voiced its concern at restrictive proposals by the committee (e.g., limiting IVF only to married couples) which would discriminate against LGBT individuals.
7) Adoption by a single parent is already a possibility according to Maltese law, so the issue here concerns mainly adoption by same-sex couples. Calleja lists two specific areas where legislation is required: “second-parent adoption”: i.e., where the same-sex partner of a biological parent can adopt his or her partner’s children; and third party adoption, which is currently off-limits for all non-married couples, be they same-sex or not.
Of all seven priorities, only one - number 4 - is currently being discussed at any level within government. The MGRM is in the process of drawing up a position paper, to be submitted for consideration in the coming weeks.


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