The Prime Minister this morning refused to comment on the President's position against the Civil Unions Bill, stating that whatever he discussed with the President was confidential.

However he said there was no problem with the Bill and it would be approved by Parliament soon.

Times of Malta reported this morning that the government had postponed the final approval of the Civil Unions Bill as the President had informally told Dr Muscat that he was not willing to sign it into law.

The Bill has been awaiting third reading for five weeks. It would then need to be signed by the President before becoming law. The government is now waiting until President George Abela’s term of office ends on April 4.

Asked whether it was normal for a Bill to be left awaiting third reading for five weeks, Dr Muscat said that was normal.

According to sources, Dr Abela’s objections are “on moral grounds”. His spokesman declined to comment.

Dr Abela will be succeeded by Family and Social Solidarity Minister Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca who, despite being a staunch Catholic and having opposed divorce, has made it clear she has no problem signing the Bill.

Soon after being nominated for the presidency, Ms Coleiro Preca said since this Bill was an electoral commitment made by the government before the last election she had no problem with it.

The new law will put unions between gay and lesbian couples on par with marriage between heterosexual couples.

Although officially the government is saying there were no problems, the Bill is awaiting the third reading before it can be sent to the President to sign it into law, as set down in the Constitution.

Usually, a Bill approved at committee stage is quickly given a third reading and then sent to the President to sign. Asked when this would happen, a spokesman for Deputy Prime Minister Louis Grech, who sets Parliament’s agenda, said only “it will be put to vote soon”.

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