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Malta legalizes same-sex marriage

by Heather Cassell

The Auberge de Castille, in Valletta, Malta was lit up in<br>the colors of the rainbow flag July 12, following passage of the same-sex<br>marriage bill. Photo: Courtesy Prime Minister's office
The Auberge de Castille, in Valletta, Malta was lit up in
the colors of the rainbow flag July 12, following passage of the same-sex
marriage bill. Photo: Courtesy Prime Minister's office  

Malta became the 24th country in the world and the 13th in the European Union to legalize same-sex marriage in a lopsided 66-1 parliamentary vote.

The lone dissenter in the July 12 vote was center-right Nationalist Party Member of Parliament Edwin Vassallo, who went against the party and voted his conscience, citing his Christina faith, reported United Press International.

Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil encouraged his party to support the new law to avoid a potential backlash, the BBC reported ahead of the vote.

The news comes on the heels of Germany's marriage equality victory in late June.

The bill will go to Malta President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca for her signature. The Washington Blade reported that advocates anticipate that the bill will be enacted before the end of the month.

The Marriage Equality Act was the first bill introduced to Malta's parliament by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, following his snap electoral victory last month.

The bill amended the existing Marriage Act, along with several other laws, by introducing gender-neutral language and allowing adoption and other changes, according to media reports.

The vote "shows that our democracy, our society ... has reached an unprecedented level of maturity and a society where we can all say we are equal," Muscat told reporters.

A victory celebration sponsored by the country's government took place in front of Auberge de Castille, the prime minister's office, in Valletta, which was lit up in the colors of the rainbow flag.

"The new law is the missing piece in the puzzle when it comes to family rights in Malta," said Evelyne Paradis, executive director of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association for the European region.

"The use of gender-neutral terms means that everyone is equal and it is much more inclusive, particularly when it comes to the trans community," she told CNN.


Cathloic leader opposed

However, Archbishop Charles Scicluna isn't backing same-sex marriage in the staunchly Roman Catholic archipelago, located in the central Mediterranean between Sicily and the North African coast.

Religious Dispatches reported that there were about 200 protesters among the celebrating crowd July 12, demonstrating against the passage of the law.

Prior to the vote, Scicluna told churchgoers that the law undermines the "true procreative purpose of sexual intercourse between a husband and a wife," according to the BBC.

Yet Scicluna couldn't get bishops on board with the anti-marriage equality hyperbole from the church. The bishops backed away from the "extreme rhetoric" being used in advertising and messaging from the church. Instead, the bishops and many congregation members worked with LGBT Catholic organizations, reported Religious Dispatches.

The Mediterranean island nation, which has more than 400,000 inhabitants, is rapidly progressing toward the future and has become the beacon of LGBT rights among the Commonwealth countries.

"Malta wants to keep leading on LGBT issues and civil liberties, to serve as a model for the rest of the world," Muscat told the BBC.

Malta joined the EU in 2004, but it wasn't until six years ago that the country began ushering in more modern laws. In 2011, the country legalized divorce and since then has passed pro-LGBT laws, such as banning so-called conversion therapy. It now ranks as one of the top European countries for LGBT rights.

In 2015, Malta was the first country to officially to include meetings focused on LGBT equality during the People's Forum, the pre-conference leading up to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.

That same year, Baroness Patricia Scotland, Commonwealth secretary-general, signaled her policies leaning toward LGBT rights, Felicity Daly, then the executive director of the Kaleidoscope Trust, told the Bay Area Reporter.

The trust works for LGBT human rights internationally, according to the organization's website.

Malta's LGBTIQ Consultative Council also published an ambitious action plan to change and implement pro-LGBT laws in partnership with the Ministry for Social Dialogue and Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties, reported the Blade.

In June, the Commonwealth Equality Network became the first LGBT organization accredited by the Commonwealth. Scotland was present at the meeting.

Malta has ranked second in European nations for advancement of LGBT rights for two consecutive years on the ILGA-Europe's Rainbow Index, reported the Blade.

"We still witness considerable homophobic discourse on social media, and discrimination against LGBT people is far from being eradicated," Joseph Peregin told the Blade. "At times we feel that the remarkable legislative achievements recently made are to some extent making it more challenging at grassroots level."

Peregin's son came out 12 years ago, he told the newspaper. Since then he and his wife, Joseanne Peregin, have been active within the Christian Life Community and founders of three LGBT-focused groups, Drachma Parents, ENP, and the Global Network of Rainbow Catholics.

Paradis agreed with Peregin.

"We know that there are some parts of society who opposed this bill, who had doubts. It is up to the government to continue to show leadership, together with the LGBTI movement, and really embed this legal change in society. The talking is finished inside Parliament, but the work must continue outside its doors," she said.

Homosexuality is criminalized in 36 of the 52 Commonwealth countries, a throwback to Britain's colonial era anti-sodomy laws, according to 76 Crimes.


Pakistan tables trans bills

Pakistan's senate tabled two transgender bills that legal experts said was due to some controversial clauses regarding gender conversion and sexual orientation that contradict Islam.

One of the bills, the Transgender and Intersex Persons (Promotion and Protection of Rights) Bill, 2017, in particular, proposed some sections that caused concern among legal experts.

That bill and another one, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2017, were authored by a task force constituted by Wafaqi Mohtasib and headed by Senator Rubina Khalid, reported the Express Tribune.

The stalled bills come after the rejection of an earlier bill supporting transgender rights that was proposed by Senator Babar Awan.

The proposed bills were finalized after they received support from members of civil society, the Ministry of Human Rights, the Ministry of Law and Justice, the Social Welfare Department, law enforcement agencies, and the transgender community.

Khalid and Pakistan Supreme Court Advocate Ruqiya Samee told reporters at a July 13 news conference they were confident that the bills would allow for transgender citizens to enjoy full rights, without promoting LGB rights.

"It seems like there is a certain group of people, who, just for the sake of promoting lesbian and gay rights, are trying to make things legal that [are] prohibited in Islam and want to get hefty funding by showing they are working for the rights of transgender," said Samee.

Nadeem Kashish, founder of the Shemale Association for Fundamental Rights, denied Khalid and Samee's claims, stating, "The bill has been constituted by the people who have become transgender by choice and in view of issues they face everyday due to lack knowledge about their rights."


SF to host global aging confab

LGBT aging experts from around the world will gather at the World Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics in San Francisco, July 23-27.

The confab, hosted by the Gerontological Society of America, will include a July 22 pre-conference workshop, " Global Ageing: Building Framework for Culturally Informed Sexuality, Gender, and LGBTQ Health Research."

Speakers from Africa, Australia, Canada, China, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States will discuss the recent research and specific examples of growing concerns worldwide about the disparities of health, social, and economics experienced by people of different sexual orientations, genders and ages, according to the workshop description. The presenters will also share feasible strategies to move work on LGBT aging issues globally forward within differing cultural, social, political, and research environments and settings.

The separate symposium, sponsored by Global Aging with Pride, will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. at Moscone Center West, 747 Howard Street in San Francisco.

A separate fee and pre-registration is required. For more information, visit


Got international LGBT news tips? Contact Heather Cassell at




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