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True rainbow thinking

The Marriage Equality Act was approved by Parliament last Wednesday. The Civil Unions Act came into being on April 14, 2014, and April 1, 2015 marked the establishment of the Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act.

Although hugely important, the true measurement of progress is not just legal recognition by the powers that be.

Marriage, that is, a legal contract that socially governs a relationship between two individuals (and it’s always just two) is an old and traditional act. When one opts for marriage, and one has all the liberty to do so, one is embracing a pretty conservative practice that does not rattle the economic powers that be; rather it extends its logic.

This is not an argument against marriage equality but simply a call to recognise that the ultimate value of a relationship does not lie in marriage.

I agree with the reaction of Aditus, that “the Bill is essentially a law of language”.

At least symbolically, most of the rights the new law establishes have existed since the 2014 law on civil unions.

On a legal basis, it was claimed the new law was not perfect and that perhaps more openness should have been adopted in its drafting, not least to give people with an irregular migration status access to marriage rights.

Other arguments have been made about how the Prime Minister is using civil rights in utilitarian ways.

These arguments, repeated since 2013, state that Joseph Muscat is pushing for civil rights to be popular with the LGBTIQ lobby, to deviate public attention from pressing criticisms surrounding his governance or to alienate people from the PN because of its hesitancy to embrace liberal policies.

It is important to entertain these arguments, but let us not reduce all politics, including good moves, to suspicion.

Over the past few weeks, critical debate on marriage equality was botched somewhat unsurprisingly, unfortunately.

We have seen the radicals marching for the preservation of the Christian definition of marriage. People who should know better wrote vitriolic articles. Homophobic comments were posted on social media.

Some called the new law Marxist legislation destroying Mother’s and Father’s Day. North Korea was invoked unnecessarily.

People decried the dismantling of the concept of traditional family (and thank goodness for that; the same argument was made a couple of decades ago when women demanded a right to a career, to sexual freedom and to vote). Some even decided that the most pressing matter concerning this new law is pronouns and a certain pragmatism when it comes to legal terminology.

Political struggles must be accompanied by creative and colourful thinking

While some of these arguments raised pertinent matters, others were simply inane comments that reminded me of when, in 2014, the PN gave itself the power to speak on behalf of everyone in society when it argued against the gender identity law on the basis that “society is not ready” for such radical changes.

But I have also seen some LGBTIQ activists dismiss outright well-meaning and in­formed individuals who voiced concerns respectfully and intelligently.

In many ways, this is a symptom of the so-called liberal left, with which I identify, that calls for openness and plurality while being increasingly defensive and intolerant. In various regards, we, as a society, need to be kinder and wiser in our reactions and attitudes.

Edwin Vassallo made the headlines for an unpopular view. He was the only MP who voted against the law, citing a discrepancy he saw between his principles and the immorality of what was being proposed.

I do not agree with his position, and although I think he should have made his position clearer before the election, I do not classify his vote as undemocratic or stupid.

I concur with Nationalist MP Claudio Grech’s stand that politics must not be reduced to a robot-like automatic agreement with the party line. I also concur with Grech’s repeated claim that it is time local politics be elevated beyond reality TV politics to the level of ideas, research and the involvement of civil society.

Politics has an ability to confer urgency on an issue. Just a couple of years ago, some discourses now employed on a daily basis were not even in social circulation.

Yet making something an issue is a complicated matter. Activism and struggles for civil rights are misguided when they are solely focused on one set of issues.

The wonder of politics is that most issues are interrelated, and interesting things happen when one starts seeing different political affairs as related, not just on a national level but also globally.

So, alongside the importance of civil rights, when shall we make critical debate in the public sphere or democratic transparency an issue, for example?

When shall we deal with environmental destruction and overdevelopment?

When shall we start talking of the discrepancy between topping LGBTIQ-friendly statistics on the one hand and the rampant homophobia and racism in our society on the other? When shall we attempt to speak seriously of pinkwashing?

When shall we analyse the tensions of a religion which preaches love while some of its representatives practise hate?

When shall we, the people, demand a more appropriate and less rude form of political language?

When shall we recognise that having our democratic representatives engaging in ethically dodgy behaviour disqualifies them from continuing in their role?

Politics should not be a matter of dates and names, in the same way that democracy is not just a matter of procedures and elections.

Political struggles must be accompanied by creative and colourful thinking: true rainbow thinking beyond black-or-white approaches. Only in this way can we start to enjoy the fruits of a truly radical and functioning democratic politics.

Kurt Borg is a member of the Institute of Utopian Studies.

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