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PN MPs balk at bill on gay marriage, want free vote

A small number of Nationalist MPs want a free vote on gay marriage in Parliament, saying the Bill as drafted would put same-sex marriage on a higher standing than marriage between a man and a woman.

This goes well beyond the government’s mandate of a change in nomenclature regarding civil unions, argue the MPs, who sources said number between three and five. The criticism stems partly from the fact that the government is proposing to replace all references to husband and wife and to motherhood and fatherhood in the Marriage Act with the terms “spouses” and “parents”.

The warning was sounded during a PN parliamentary group meeting held on Friday evening.

In a statement afterwards, the PN said that a number of its MPs would be moving amendments to “improve” the Bill but it made it amply clear that the party would be backing the new law at both Second and Third Readings. This commitment reflects the PN’s pledge, made in its manifesto, to introduce same-sex marriage, the statement read.

However, PN sources yesterday told The Sunday Times of Malta that behind the scenes, a number of its MPs were uncomfortable with the proposed provisions.

“Contrary to what Helena Dalli stated, this move is not about changing civil unions into gay marriage. If it were just in a name there would have been no need to introduce a new Act of 37 pages,” one source said.

The First Reading of this controversial law, which entails the presentation of a motion bearing the title of the Bill, was moved yesterday during the State opening of Parliament. However, the Bill will only be published tomorrow morning, a few hours before the House starts the debate proper.

It is not right that the people should have surrogacy and gamete donation by stealth

PN sources confirmed that a draft copy was handed over to the Opposition in advance, to give them time to go through it ahead of tomorrow’s debate.

From a copy of the draft Bill seen by this newspaper, it transpires that the government is proposing to amend the Marriage Act, the Civil Unions Act, the Civil Code, the Code of Organisation and Civil Procedures, the Criminal Code as well as the Interpretation Act.

During Friday’s meeting at least three MPs made it clear that they were against eliminating all references to husband and wife from the Marriage Act, in favour of the term spouse.

“While the PN signalled its intention to approve the introduction of gay marriage in its manifesto, this Bill goes much further,” they warned.

Moreover, concerns were raised about whether these changes would pave the way for a radical societal shift, such as changing children’s textbooks to reflect the new law.

Another objection being raised on the Bill is the inclusion of several new sub articles or amendments to the Civil Code which critics say would pave the way for surrogacy.

One example being cited is a new sub article stating that: “The family name chosen by the parties shall be the surname which shall be adopted by any future children born to the parties.”

They pointed out that the term “born to the parties” presupposed what is currently an illegal mechanism, such as surrogacy or gamete donation, in the light of the fact that biologically, gay couples cannot have any children. 

“Such issues should be another matter for in-depth discussion independently of this Bill,” one PN MP told this newspaper.

“It is not right that the Maltese people should have surrogacy and gamete donation introduced by stealth instead of having a mature discussion, as a democracy entails. Such a move undermines the Embryo Protection Act,” he added.

This concern was fuelled even further during yesterday’s speech by the President, when opening Parliament, that the IVF law would be amended “to make it more realistic thus giving more people the opportunity of becoming parents”.

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