Listening to Minister Helena Dalli speaking in Parliament on Monday made one realise how much ground has been covered in the past few years to bring Malta into the contemporary world.
It must be admitted that up till the last election no one in Malta had any idea about the long journey still to be undertaken. The birth pangs, if we may say so, came with the divorce referendum in which a majority of voters struck off in a different direction from that of the church and one party leadership. Then came the civil union law which gave hitherto unimagined rights to gays and lesbians.
The bill that Parliament is discussing now is a continuation along the same lines.
One must state that the transition has been a painless one without the splits and controversies that there have been eg in France and in Italy.
Gays and lesbians have entered into civil unions, known in common parlance as gay marriages, to the happiness of the families of those involved and to next to no local controversy at all. With the bill now under discussion, LGBT persons acquire the same rights that other citizens have: They can inherit from each other, they can own property jointly, etc.
Along with them, the bill also allows for cohabiting couples to enjoy rights they never had before.
It is now more than clear that all this is now irreversible. People who still harbour any idea these legislative moves can be reversed at some point in the future had better think again.
This may not be the best solution for the Catholic Church but experience of other countries teaches the Church is good at adapting itself to new realities.
Of course the new Malta is still a new concept and many people still look askance at eg a lesbian or gay couple with children. As one can see from the many sitcoms one sees on television, even foreign societies are finding that rather difficult to assimilate. At the end, every person knows the reality about one’s personal life and no other person can hope to understand the intricacies and the warp and woof of his or her life, and the best judge for that is the person himself (or herself). Sometimes government spokespersons boast that Malta is now at the forefront of LGBT rights, where it previously was the continental laggard. We must not allow the penchant for being first guide our moves. It is more than sufficient to see that the new legislative disposition fulfils the needs of people who until a short time ago did not enjoy these rights at all.