‘It’s all about the detail’
Gay rights activists insist the adequacy of a cohabitation law for gay couples can only be assessed when details are known and are asking the Family Minister to share a draft before the Bill is presented to Parliament.
Lawyer Neil Falzon, who drew up a position paper on marriage equality for the Malta Gay Rights Movement, an advocacy group, said it was unclear whether the cohabitation Bill would deal with gay immigration rights, inheritance, tax issues and other legal aspects.
“In principle, we welcome the fact that the government has admitted same-sex relationships should be treated in a distinct way but we don’t know if the rights afforded will be from A to Z or from A to B,” Dr Falzon said.
According to Nationalist backbencher Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, gay couples will be treated differently from siblings living under the same roof by a cohabitation Bill that is expected to be published in the coming weeks. “The Bill seems to be moving in the right direction and the feedback I got from Chris Said (the Family Minister) was that it will address issues of concern for gay couples such as inheritance and pension rights,” Dr Pullicino Orlando said yesterday.
The MP, who last week wrote it was time to recognise same-sex marriage, had a meeting with Dr Said a few days ago to discuss the provisions of a cohabitation Bill. The Family Ministry has gone on record saying the law must cater for the different realities faced by intimate couples – gay or straight – and siblings.
It is unclear though what rights gay couples will be afforded. The MGRM paper published earlier this year argued that cohabitation legislation did not recognise the existence of a stable relationship “built on love and mutual support” but merely acknowledged the physical presence of two or more people under the same roof. While making a case for marriage equality, the MGRM paper said that registered partnerships for gay couples is were recognition is most closely affiliated with marriage. “Just like we don’t know what the Labour Party means when it says it will introduce civil unions for gay couples, we don’t know what the Nationalist Party has in mind when it talks of same-sex partnerships under the cohabitation law,” Dr Falzon said, adding the devil was in the detail.
The cohabitation Bill was first promised by the PN in 1998 and the government is committed to introduce it in this legislature.
A Curia spokesman said the Church preferred to comment when it saw the Bill.