Gay rights activists welcomed the common position of the Labour and Nationalist parties after they both declared adoption should be based on the child’s best interest and not the sexual orientation of adoptive parents.

The important thing is for the experts to confirm that the child will have a loving and caring family

This is the first time there is an open and clear political consensus that gay people should be able to adopt children so long as professionals deem it is in the best interest of the child.

“The Malta Gay Rights Movement welcomes the position on adoption… as one that should be based on the child’s best interests, rather than on the sexual orientation or gender identity of the parents,” Gabi Calleja, movement coordinator, said. She said MGRM will be seeking to meet all political groups to seek further clarifications on their positions with regard to rights and policies.

Last week, Labour leader Joseph Muscat said he was committed to introducing civil unions for same-sex couples, saying it would not be a partnership contract open to everyone but would include a package of rights, similar to those obtained through marriage, for gay couples.

This differed from the civil partnership proposed by the Nationalist Government as part of the cohabitation law. These applied to anyone living together – be they a heterosexual couple, siblings or gay people.

During a meeting at The Times on Monday, Dr Muscat elaborated that he was not against gay couples adopting and believed the underlying principle should be the child’s benefit.

He said the most important thing was that the child was in a “loving and caring family”.

Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi yesterday echoed Dr Muscat’s view. His spokesman said: “The Prime Minister confirms that the important thing is for experts to confirm the child will have a loving and caring family, irrespective of the adoptive parents’ sexual orientation. In all cases, the best interests of the child remain paramount.”

Asked if the PN would consider civil unions, the spokesman said: “Labour appears to be following the PN but changing the name from civil ‘partnerships’ to a civil ‘union’.”

The PN electoral manifesto, he said, spoke about ensuring that the necessary legislation was in place to safeguard people who were cohabiting or in a gay relationship and also referred to the importance of safeguarding family values.

Maltese law allows single people and married couples to adopt. This has been interpreted as a way to stop gay couples from doing so, although the law does not specifically speak about them.

As things stand, gays can adopt if they apply as a single parent. The child is officially registered as adopted by one partner, raising complications over the other’s rights and responsibilities.

Ms Calleja said MGRM was campaigning for marriage equality as it was the only form of recognition to grant equality in rights, obligations and status. Cohabitation did not recognise a stable relationship but acknowledged the physical presence of two or more people under the same roof.

“Malta Gay Rights Movement is against any recognition of same-sex couples and their children that adopts a piecemeal approach to rights.”

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