Gay families are invisible in the eyes of the law but their situation is expected to change radically when the Civil Unions Bill becomes law tonight.
The absolute lack of recognition of gay families was evident in last year’s index of gay rights compiled by Ilga-Europe, a gay advocacy group, which placed Malta at the bottom of the list along with seven European countries.
While Malta scored 35 out of 100 in the overall standings that analysed various gay rights and freedoms, the result was dragged down because the country registered no points at all on family-linked issues.
Malta’s zero rating on gay family rights was only matched by Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Lithuania, Monaco, San Marino and Serbia. The annual index was compiled in May last year and did not factor in changes that occurred after the election that allowed trans people to marry.
In the wake of Parliament’s approval of the Civil Unions Bill, Times of Malta analysed the current situation of gay family rights – as listed in the Ilga index – and how this is expected to change after tonight’s vote.
Trans people can marry a person of the other gender
• Trans people can marry a person of the other gender after the law was changed last year soon after the Labour Party came to power. The first trans marriage was celebrated some weeks ago.
Registered partnership (with similar rights to marriage)
• Gay partners will acquire this right when the Civil Unions Bill is approved by Parliament. The law will provide for State-sanctioned unions with all the rights and obligations of married couples.
Registered partnership (with limited rights)
• Gay partnerships have never been formally recognised. The civil partnership Bill that was proposed by the previous administration was a form of recognition with limited rights. This will be superseded by the civil unions law.
• Although single gay people could adopt, joint adoption was not possible because the couple had no legal recognition as a family unit. This is expected to change with the new law.
• The partner of a gay person, who would have adopted a child as a single, could never adopt the spouse’s child despite having lived together for years. This will become possible with the Civil Unions Bill because the partners in a union will be legally recognised as a family unit.
• The government has not opted for an amendment to the Marriage Act that would allow gay partners to get married like heterosexual couples. This is considered to be the measure of full equality by gay rights activists.
• Malta still has no cohabitation law that governs relations between unmarried couples whether they are gay or heterosexual.
Automatic co-parent recognition
• There was no automatic co-parent recognition because gay people could not adopt as a couple. It is unclear whether the Civil Unions Bill will grant automatic recognition of a co-parent in a union where the child was adopted by only one spouse.
Medically assisted insemination (for couples)
• Although the IVF law does allow medically-assisted insemination for unmarried couples in a stable relationship it excludes gay couples. The Civil Unions Bill makes no provision to change this but it has already been pointed out by legal experts that the IVF law will conflict with the rights acquired through a civil union.
Medically assisted insemination (for singles)
• The IVF law makes no provision for medically-assisted insemination for single people, irrespective of their gender. Sperm and egg donation and surrogate motherhood are specifically banned, creating a natural impediment for gay people.
Note: The sub-headings are based on the Ilga-Europe rainbow map, an annual index, which gives a snapshot of gay rights across Europe.