Elaine and Roann Micallef Avallone look back on how their lives were changed by the introduction of same-sex marriage five years ago.
Five years ago, as the sun began to set on another hot sweltering day, Castille Square was buzzing with people.
The once beige and grey square transformed into an explosion of colour, as people carried rainbow flags, waving them proudly in the air or wearing them as capes.
Just a stone’s throw away, MPs were casting a vote to introduce same-sex marriage through the new Marriage Equality Act.
Parliament approved the bill by an overwhelming majority, with just one MP, the PN’s Edwin Vassallo, voting against.
Malta became the 15th EU state to introduce same-sex marriage, four years after bringing in civil unions to same-sex couples and just six years after the introduction of divorce.
Auberge de Castille lit up in rainbow colours and sported the words “We made history”, as fireworks illuminated the night sky.
Among the hundreds celebrating were Elaine Micallef and Roann Avallone. Celebrating the huge milestone with them, was their eldest daughter and other family members.
Since then, Elaine (45) and Roann (43) have joined the ranks of the 275 same-sex marriages to be celebrated here.
They exchanged their vows and also adopted their five-year-old foster daughter, who came into the couple’s lives when she was just six weeks old.
“It was an important night for us, we never imagined that this would ever happen in our lifetime,” Elaine Micallef Avallone told Times of Malta.
“I think, for us, we felt it was important because we come from a generation that was scared to hold hands in public and, when we were younger, the Church had a much more dominant role in society.
“So being part of the LGBTIQ community felt sinful to a certain extent because we could not be part of the Church.”
Roann described the night as “euphoric”.
“I felt so much joy inside, not just for us but for the years to come for other couples,” she said.
Roann, who came out at the age of 16, always wanted a family but, at the time, felt it was something “impossible”.
“Back then, getting married or having a family was out of the question but now all couples have that opportunity.”
They highlighted how the passing of the bill was symbolic as it made the community feel recognised.
“We kept looking around the square asking each other ‘can you believe we are here celebrating this?’ That night was also about the community being seen and there were people from all walks of life and it was so beautiful.”
Roann proposed to Elaine back in 2014, a few months after the Civil Union Act was approved. While, at the beginning, the couple planned for a civil union, they were not comfortable about it.
“We couldn’t understand why there had to be a difference between the title marriage and union,” Elaine said.
So, when discussions on same-sex marriage began, the couple decided it was worth the wait.
On April 13, 2019, surrounded by their loved ones, they finally said their ‘I dos’ and now recall how that day felt ‘so right’.
“A dream came true,” Roann said reaching out to wrap her arm around Elaine’s shoulder.
They said the law was also important for children who have same-sex parents.
“The law also helps the recognition of rainbow families, for children to see that there are other families who have two mummies or daddies and that they are not alone,” Elaine said.
This year, the family celebrated another milestone: adopting their youngest daughter.
“On May 26, she became a Micallef Avallone. It’s beautiful, not because she became ours but because we became hers, forever,” Elaine said.
Both highlighted how, in the five years since marriage equality, there have been leaps of improvement in the LGBTIQ community. Improved trans-healthcare, increased acceptance of LGBTIQ identities, the possibility of raising a family and, of course, recognition of marriage.
“Despite all this, we think there is still so much that can be done,” the couple echoed.
Apart from the need for more asylum seekers’ rights and awareness of other minorities in the community, the couple stressed the need for more inclusive sexual health care and education.
“There needs to be an increase in visibility of rainbow families in school,” Elaine said. “We still never see families like ours in textbooks or even books in libraries.”
She also stressed the need for an Equality Act, which seeks to bring together all anti-discrimination legislation.
275 same-sex marriages in five years
Since the introduction of the historic Marriage Bill, there have been 275 same-sex marriages in Malta and Gozo.
Figures provided by the Home Affairs Ministry show that, in 2017, there were seven same-sex marriages, soaring to 65 in the following year.
2019 saw the highest number of same-sex marriages, with a total of 81 registered, followed by 39 in 2020.
Last year, 51 marriages took place and, up until June 9 of this year, 32 same-sex couples said ‘I do’. In the past five years, 10 same-sex marriages were registered in Gozo.
Apart from marriages, the ministry also provided the number of same-sex separations and divorces.
In five years, there were 21 separation cases and 12 same-sex couples registered for a divorce.