Date: 21 March 2014 at 08:27
Gay Men and women, as well as heterosexual couples who don’t want to get married, can now enjoy all the same social benefits as married couples, following a Civil Partnerships bill passed in Parliament today. This includes tax, housing, social security and pensions rights. The Government described this as a landmark bill and a step towards a fair and inclusive society.
There was standing room only in the Parliament public gallery. Many listening to this parliamentary session had been waiting for this moment for years.
The new legislation allows non-married couples to enjoy the same civil rights as married couples regardless of their sexual orientation. The Minister for equality, Samantha Sacramento, said this was a landmark piece of legislation, which paved the way for a natural progression to an inclusive society.
The bill was drafted following consultation with the Equality Rights Group, and Unite the Union who recommended that the Government go further than the UK to include opposite sex couples in the legislation. When the bill was commended to the house, there was applause from the public gallery, which prompted a call for order from the Speaker.
The Opposition Leader, Daniel Feetham, said it was GSD tradition to allow its members to take a vote of conscience on sensitive issues of this nature. He said they had done so, for example, during the debate on the age of consent, which saw his own private member’s bill defeated.
For his part, the Chief Minister, said this bill stirred emotions in people with different views, but pointed out that the new legislation didn’t impose anything on anyone, it simply forced the state to treat all couples equally, regardless of their sexual orientation.
All members of Parliament voted in favour of the bill, bar one. Sir Peter Caruana had left the chamber shortly before the vote was taken.