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Same-sex unions law by November

A Bill to legalise same-sex unions will get priority treatment in Parliament as the Government plans to have it approved before the Budget.

Government Whip Carmelo Abela yesterday said the first reading of the Civil Unions Bill will be presented when Parliament reconvenes tonight after a 74-day long summer recess.

With the Budget expected sometime in November, the Government wants to move fast on fulfilling an electoral pledge that had rallied the gay community behind the Labour Party.

The first reading is a mere formality during which the title of the Bill is read out. So far the contents of the Bill have remained under wraps and Equality Minister Helena Dalli yesterday said the final touches were being applied. She said the Bill was radically different from the civil partnerships proposal made by the previous administration.

Adoptions will continue to be carried out in the child’s best interest

Gay couples will formalise their union in front of a state official rather than a notary.

Adoption of children by gay couples will be guided by the same principles that apply to married couples. “Adoptions will continue to be carried out in the child’s best interest as they have been until today,” she said.

Civil unions will, for the first time, recognise gay couples as a formalised family unit and although perceived to be a notch down from marriage, much will depend on what rights the law will afford gay couples.

Tonight’s parliamentary sitting will open with the swearing-in of newcomer Antoine Borg, who was elected in the casual election on the seventh district triggered by the resignation of former Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi in July.

Parliament’s agenda also includes four bills at second reading stage. Apart from the continuation of the Health Bill debate, the Company Service Providers Bill and amendments to the Criminal Code, the Central Bank Bill and the Value Added Tax Bill are also on the agenda.

Additional reporting Keith Micallef.

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