January 21, 2003 – Malta Media News
New premises for Malta Gay Rights Movement
The Malta Gay Rights Movement, an active socio-political, non-profit making, movement with the challenges and rights of the local gay and lesbian communit at its central focus, has finally acquired its own premises in Mosta. MGRM said these premises will serve as a base for the coordination of our educational, political lobbying and support initiatives. Their acquisition has also made it possible for us to start translating our dream of setting up a professional national gay helpline and a number of support groups into a concrete reality.
Since it was set up in June 2001, the MGRM has worked incessantly to alleviate the silent suffering of thousands of young gay men and lesbians, to promote anti-discrimination legislation, to challenge antiquated misconceptions on homosexuality, and to build a gay-straight alliance, to instill more unity and a sense of identity among the local gay community. It has also made its presence felt on the continent, through its affiliation in the International Lesbian and Gay Association and its participation in several regional conferences.
In all its endeavours, the MGRM does not receive any funds whatsoever from the Community Chest Fund, L-Istrina, or from fund-raising marathons organised by the political parties. That’s because it says it has to turn to personal pockets and to the generosity of all those who believe that our society can only benefit through the celebration of the diversity that exists within it. MGRM said it needs help to start furnishing the place. Any loose furniture, carpets, stationery items, paper, a fax machine, maybe a computer which supports Internet. .
MGRM can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or on 9925 5559.
February 16, 2003 – The Malta Independent, St Julians, Malta
Gay Rights Movement deplores billboard at Naxxar MLP Club
by Massimo Farrugia
The Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) has criticised a billboard hung outside the Malta Labour Party club in Naxxar. The billboard reads "The European Union believes in abortion, euthanasia and same sex marriage." The movement said it is unfair to use gay rights as an argument against Malta’s accession to the European Union. The Gay Rights Movement said the poster in question unjustly associated gay rights with the fundamental human right to life when it put the same-sex marriage issue on the same level as abortion and euthanasia. The billboard, which was not even written in correct Maltese, was removed yesterday afternoon after the central administration of the Labour Party was informed about the content of the billboard.
The European Union is the most progressive organisation as far as human rights and minority rights go, the MGRM said. However, it is not true that the European Union obliges its members to legalise same-sex marriages. The EU obliges Member States to remove discriminatory laws regarding a person’s sexual orientations. In this regard, the MGRM also criticised the Maltese government for having failed to make the necessary legal amendments against sexual discrimination at workplaces.
12 May 2003 – The Independent, St Julians, Malta
Seminar on gay rights in EU accession countries
Malta Gay Rights Movement Coordinator Sandro Mangion and International Officer Christian Attard have participated in a seminar on gay and lesbian rights in EU accession countries, which was held in Brussels. Representatives from Malta, Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and the Czech Republic exchanged information and views at the seminar, at which representatives of the European Parliament, the International Lesbian and Gay Association’s European branch (ILGA-Europe, of which the MGRM is an active member) were also present.
The Maltese representatives raised the issue of the inadequate implementation of EU Directive 2000/78 EC in Malta. This directive requires that national legislation be put in place with a view to eliminating discrimination and harassment at the workplace on the grounds of sexual orientation. So far, the Maltese government has shown itself unwilling to adequately implement this directive, in spite of clear statements from the European Commission that it is an integral part of the acquis communautaire and consequently must be implemented prior to accession. The seminar was organised by the Belgian Lesbian and Gay Movement as part of their annual Rainbow Week, the climax of which was the Belgian Pride.
Mr Mangion and Mr Attard represented Malta at this event, which drew around 10,000 participants.
April 5, 2003 – Malta Media
Gay Rights Movement reacts to parties’ proposals
The Malta Gay Rights Movement thanked the Malta Labour Party and Alternattiva Demokratika for including its proposals in their electoral programmes. MGRM however showed its dismay at the fact that the Nationalist Party declined to meet Movement’s officials because "the time is not yet ripe for such a meeting according to the PN". The Movement also noted that the PN manifesto is vague in its proposals and makes no reference in safeguarding the rights of minorities.
22 May, 2003 – Malta Media
AD (Green Party) calls for full implimenetation of EU anti-discrimination directive
Alternattiva Demokratika-The Green Party is calling on the government to fully implement EU Directive 2000/78 EC. This directive requires that national legislation be put in place with a view to eliminating discrimination and harassment at the workplace on the grounds of sexual orientation. The Green Party’s spokesperson for civil rights James Debono expressed AD’s support for the Malta Gay Rights Movement which is calling for the full implementation of this EU directive and said, "Maltese Gays and lesbians should be fully protected from discrimination and harassment at the workplace. One of the major reasons why AD supports EU membership is the strengthening of civil rights in Malta. Maltese citizens should enjoy the same civil rights enjoyed by other European Union citizens. AD wants Malta to be really European and modern".
Debono added "it is a shame that the government is unwilling to adequately implement this directive, in spite of clear statements from the European Commission that it is an integral part of the aquis communautaire and therefore it be implemented prior to accession".
May 11, 2003 – The Independent, St Julians, Malta
EU presses government to outlaw discrimination against gays
by Karl Schembri
The EU Commission is pressing the government to ban discrimination at the place of work on the grounds of sexual orientation in line with union directives. Although Maltese labour laws ban discrimination in principle, EU Council Directive 2000/78/EC identifies gays and lesbians as being at a higher risk of being discriminated against in the work place and grants them special protection. The same directive prohibits discrimination on grounds of age, disability, race, and religion or belief.
"I confirm there is a need to have all grounds covered by the directive to be spelt out specifically in Maltese law," said the head of the European Commission Employment and Social Affairs Directorate General, Odile Quintin, last Thursday. This means that Maltese law should specifically ban discrimination and harassment at the place of work directed at gays and lesbians.
Moreover, the directive refers to trade unions and professional associations, obliging them not to discriminate against gays and lesbians. Ms Quintin was in Malta last week to review the progress made by the Maltese government in adopting the social and employment regulations of the EU prior to accession. In a joint press conference held last Thursday together with Social Policy Minister Lawrence Gonzi, Ms Quintin made it clear that the Commission expected the Maltese government to adopt the EU directive in its entirety.
But the Maltese government is refusing to adopt the full directive, arguing that existing legislation is enough to ban discrimination against gays and lesbians at the place of work. "All forms of discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation or on age, ethnic origin or racial grounds are illegal and the interpretation given by the Attorney General of the law that has been passed in Parliament is that the clause as drafted covers all these areas," Dr Gonzi said. "The issue that has been discussed is whether we need to mention these areas specifically.
The opinion of legal experts given to us here in Malta is that we do not need to be specific, the clause mentions some areas as examples but it does not exclude all the other areas. We’ve agreed to go into this issue and get the legal advice more substantiated so that everybody can be sure that the judgements given by our Constitutional Court in previous cases substantiate this interpretation." Ms Quintin insisted: "For me it’s legal certainty. As the directive is spelling out a series of grounds, we feel that these grounds have to be very clearly specified in Maltese laws."
The Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) has been lobbying for the last year and a half to get labour laws amended in line with EU directives. The movement points at the Employment and Industrial Relations Act and the Equality Between Men and Women Act, enacted in Parliament over the last six months: both of them fail to adopt the EU directive. Discrimination and harassment at work on grounds of sexual orientation is a hidden problem, claims MGRM. According to a survey it conducted last year, 40 per cent of gay and lesbian respondents said they were harassed at work, while many others were ashamed to speak out about discrimination. EU legislation would shift the burden of proof on the employers.
In other words, in proceedings for breaches of the principle of equal treatment which are not criminal in nature, once it is established there is evidence that such breach did take place, it is up to the employer to prove that no discrimination took place. MGRM brought up the issue in a seminar on gay and lesbian rights in EU accession countries held in Brussels earlier this month. "The Maltese government has shown itself to be unwilling to adequately implement this directive, in spite of clear statements from the European Commission that it is an integral part of the acquis communautaire," said MGRM international secretary Christian Attard. "Consequently, it must be implemented prior to accession."
Gays urge government to implement EU directive
by Daniela Xuereb
The Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) has urged the government to implement the EU Employment Equality Directive 2000/78/EC which among other principles lists that of equal treatment in employment and training irrespective of religion, belief, sexual orientation and age. Speaking at a press conference yesterday at St James Cavalier, the Centre for Creativity, to mark the launch of MGRM’s DiversCity Week of activities next month, Sandro Mangion, the organisation’s co-ordinator said the MGRM will insist on the EU directive being implemented in Malta. The European Commission for Employment and Social Affairs recently launched a massive EU anti-discrimination campaign which could end up an embarrassing exercise for the Maltese government unless it adopts fair treatment laws by next year.
The campaign is mainly meant to put pressure on European governments to implement two important EU equality directives. These are the Racial Equality Directive and the Employment Equality Directive. On both counts the Maltese government is still lagging behind, according to the Commission. The directive contains definitions of direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation, and it also shifts the burden of proof between the complainant and the perpetrator in civil and administrative cases.
But the Maltese government is refusing to adopt the full directive, arguing that existing legislation is enough to ban discrimination against gays and lesbians at the place of work. "This year’s theme for the DiversCity Week 2003 is ‘Out and Proud’. Many gay persons live a life of solitude because they are ashamed to ‘come out,’" said Mr Mangion. "We want a community which appreciates the value of diversity."
For the past two years the MGRM have fought for gay rights and last year released results of a study carried out among the gay community in Malta. Results indicated that 50 per cent of respondents reported they had been harassed at some point in their life because they were gay. Others, around 11 per cent, were subjected to violence. In order to help gay persons accept their situation the MGRM will soon launch a help line. "Many gay people suffer immense loneliness particularly after ‘coming out’ and because of problems related to the stigma attached to homosexuality.
The help line will be there to listen to them and give them any help or advice they might need," said Diane Xuereb the co-ordinator of the help line. The MGRM’s DiversCity week will run between 5 and 13 July. Activities include a film festival in collaboration with the British Council, a Forum Theatre, an exhibition depicting homosexuality through the ages, a festival and finally a Pride Party. MGRM’s events are being held in collaboration with St James Cavalier, General Soft Drinks Limits, the British Council, the Malta Photographic Society and the Valletta Local Council.
Government outlaws discrimination against gays
by Karl Schembri
The government has given in to pressure from the European Union and the Maltese gay community to outlaw discrimination at the place of work against gays and lesbians, in line with EU directives. Legal notice 297 published last Tuesday in the Government Gazette specifically bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, as well as religion or belief, disability, age, race and ethnic origin. Published as subsidiary legislation to the existing labour laws (Employment and Industrial Relations Act, 2002), the new legal notice marks a first in Maltese legislation when it comes to specifically banning discrimination against gays and lesbians.
The legal notice states: "In determining whether any treatment is treatment that is justified in a democratic society, the Industrial Tribunal shall take into account the provisions of any directive and, or regulation issued by the institutions of the European Union relating to discrimination and particularly Council Directive 2000/43/EC of 29th June 2000 and Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27th November 2000 prohibiting discrimination on the basis of religion or belief, disability, age, sexual orientation, race or ethnic origin."
The Malta Gay Rights Movement received the news of the legal notice with satisfaction, and hope for more progressive legislation safeguarding gay rights. "We’re happy with this positive development," said MGRM co-ordinator Sandro Mangion. "It’s a step in the right direction." The MGRM has been insisting that the government get labour laws amended in line with EU directives for the last two years. Although last Tuesday’s amendment is considered to be "subsidiary legislation" given that the text has not been inserted directly into the actual employment law, it is still useful for gay victims of discrimination at the place of work.
"Although the government has not transposed the EU directive in the Employment and Industrial Relations Act, one can still cite this legal notice in an industrial tribunal," Mr Mangion said. "The only problem is that a minister has the power to revoke this legal notice at will. But it’s good to see that our lobbying and the European Commission’s pressure had the desired effect." Pressure from the European Commission was made public last May by the commission’s Employment and Social Affairs Director General, Odile Quintin, during a visit to Malta to monitor the progress made by the government in adopting the EU’s social and employment regulations prior to accession.
"I confirm there is a need to have all grounds covered by the directive to be spelt out specifically in Maltese law," Ms Quintin said in a press conference. Although Maltese labour laws ban discrimination in principle, EU Council Directive 2000/78/EC identifies gays and lesbians as being more likely of being discriminated against at the work place and grants them special protection. Ms Quintin’s warnings were swiftly followed by an unequivocal statement by Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen following a query by British Labour MEP Michael Cashman, a declared gay and supporter of MGRM.
"In Malta, the recently adopted Employment and Industrial Relations Act did not fully transpose the Directive on equal treatment in employment and occupation," Mr Verheugen said. "Gaps remain concerning the coverage of all the grounds of discrimination (age, sexual orientation), the burden of proof and the definition of direct and indirect discrimination." The Commissioner added that there was therefore a clear need in Malta "to reinforce the legal framework in order to fully transpose the requirements of the anti-discrimination acquis". He also assured Mr Cashman that the Commission would "make use of all the instruments at our disposal to ensure that the acquis in this area is fully transposed by accession".
The Maltese government had resisted mounting pressure to introduce new regulations prior to EU accession on the grounds that existing legislation was enough to ban discrimination against gays and lesbians. "The opinion by the legal experts given to us here in Malta is that we do not need to be specific," Social Policy Minister Lawrence Gonzi said last May. Now that the government seems to have backtracked on its position, the new legal notice means that Maltese law specifically bans discrimination against gays and lesbians at work although harassment against them is still not specifically outlawed.
"The Maltese government, specifically the Deputy Prime Minister, has stressed the point that the Employment and Industrial Relations Act was always intended to cover all ‘discriminatory treatment’," said Parliamentary Secretary Dolores Cristina. "In fact, the Employment and Industrial Relations Act states that ‘discriminatory treatment’ means any distinction, exclusion or restriction which is not justifiable in a democratic society. However, given that some questions were raised regarding the interpretation of this definition and whether this definition meets the requirements of EU directives 2000/43/EC and 2000/78/EC,
Legal Notice 297 makes specific reference to this directive to clear any difficulties that could have arisen in the interpretation of the definition quoted above." Ms Cristina said that harassment against gays and lesbians is already covered by labour laws and by the Equality for Men and Women Act. However there is still no specific mention of sexual orientation.
The Minister’s communications coordinator, Alan Camilleri, said the government did not backtrack because it still resisted transposing the directive in "primary legislation". Be that as it may, MGRM considers this to be a victory although it is cautiously optimistic about pending issues. One of them is harassment of gays and lesbians at the work place, which is still not catered for specifically in the labour laws. According to an MGRM survey commissioned last year, 40 per cent of Maltese gays and lesbians said they were harassed at work, while many others admitted they were ashamed to speak out about discrimination.
2 May 2005 – di-ve news
Gay movement protests as MCC refuses to accept application for transsexual beauty contest
Valletta, Malta – The Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) has protested at the manner the Mediterranean Conference Centre (MCC) has refused an application to hold a beauty contest for transsexual contestants there. It asked the Tourism and Culture Minister Francis Zammit Dimech whether he approves of the way the matter was handled by the MCC chairman, Peter Fenech. According to the movement, Dr Fenech declined for several times to give both the organisers and MGRM any details why the MCC refused the application six months ago.
MCC is bound to deal with proposals transparently, the movement argued. If the Mediterranean Conference Centre does have clear criteria on which it bases its decisions to accept or refuse applications, it must not keep them secret. MGRM said that such activities offer transsexual persons, in this case male to female, the necessary space to bring out their talents and share them with the public. These individuals are already discriminated against in mainstream beauty contests, in which they are usually rejected by non-transsexual females, the movement stated.
19 December 2006 – Malta Star
Malta with lowest support for gay adoption
Almost one of every five Maltese persons are in favour of gay marriages, but only 7 per cent agree that homosexual couples should be allowed to adopt children. Only 7 per cent of Maltese respondents to the latest Eurobarometer survey agreed that homosexuals should be allowed to adopt children, putting Malta at par with Poland as the EU members that least support gay adoption.
This is much less than the average for all EU citizens, which currently stands at 32 per cent. But the Maltese are much less conservative when it comes to gay marriage. In the preliminary report of EU’s public opinion study for Autumn 2006, 18 per cent of Maltese questioned answered that they are in favour of allowing homosexual couples to get married. But once again, this level of acceptance is much lower than the EU’s 44 per cent average.
Homosexual rights is one of the new issues that the latest Eurobarometer report analysed in a new section on values that are currently hot issues in various member states. It also questioned whether the personal consumption of cannabis should be legalised throughout Europe, and over one of every five Maltese citizens (21%) answered “yes”.
The study also sought the opinion of Maltese on the role of religion in society and 70 per cent agreed that “the place of religion in our society is too important”. What justice? The same study also looked at immigration. When presented with the statement “Immigrants contribute a lot to Malta”, only 21 per cent agreed.
The majority of the local respondents expressed their concern on the lack of justice in Malta. 71 per cent agreed that “we need more equality and justice, even if this means less freedom for the individual”, while 81 per cent agreed that “justice is considered as too tolerant nowadays”.
On a political level, 55 per cent of Maltese agreed that the EU should have a common foreign policy, while 64 per cent were in favour of a common defence and security policy. The study also shows that Europeans rank peace (52%), respect for human life (43%), and human rights (41%) as their most important personal values.
16 February 2007 – PinkNews
Malta transsexual given permission to marry
by PinkNews.co.uk writer
A judge in Malta has ordered government officials to issue the appropriate documentation to permit a transsexual woman to get married. The court’s ruling is the first of its kind in the country, which joined the EU in 2004. The decision, taken yesterday, confirmed that as the woman had undergone gender reassignment surgery, her birth certificate should be changed to reflect her sex as legally female.
Mr. Justice Camilleri has now ordered the director of Public Registry to issue marriage banns and change the name and sex on her birth certificate, di-ve news reports. The judge also pointed out that nothing in the country’s marriage laws would prevent someone who is legally a woman from marrying a man just because of her former gender.
Malta is one of the most socially conservative countries in the EU. 98% of the population are Roman Catholics, and although homosexuality is legal, there remains significant prejudice. The Mediterranean island, a British colony until 1964, has around 400,000 inhabitants and is the smallest EU state in terms of both size and population.
In 2000 the government were criticised by gay rights groups for openly homophobic statements criticising EU proposals to treat gay people equally. Only 18% of the population support gay marriage, a December Eurobarometer survey found.
9 March 2007 – PinkNews
Malta delays transsexual’s wedding 3/07
by Rachel Charman
The Maltese Director of Public Registry is continuing to resist the release of marriage banns for a transsexual woman and her male partner. Mr Justice Gino Camilleri ordered the director, Anthony Geraldi, to issue the banns on 12th February, on the grounds that the union between the transsexual and her partner did not conflict with any part of the Marriage Act, as she has now become a woman. But a week later, Geraldi requested a reversal of the court decree, claiming that the change in the Act of Birth of the transsexual that allows a change of name and gender was only to protect her privacy. This, he believes, does not mean that she can now be considered a woman in legal terms as her surgery was cosmetic.
On 1st March the transsexual’s lawyers insisted that they arrange an appointment for their client to apply for the banns to be issued, forcing the registry to set a date for 7th March. Geraldi then filed an urgent application, requesting authorisation not to issue the banns until the original application was decided on. He said that if this application forced him to issue the banns, the requests made in the original application would be "irremediably prejudiced," according to TimesOfMalta.com.
Mr. Justice Micallef ruled that the application would be upheld and the marriage banns were not to be issued for the next 40 days to ensure that the interests of both the transsexual and Geraldi are not compromised. Geraldi’s resistance to the marriage is not without popular support. Only 18% of the Maltese population support gay marriage, a December Eurobarometer survey found, and there is significant prejudice against the LGBT community.
In parliament too there is debate over the issue. In reply to a parliamentary question on 26th February, Home Affairs Minister Tonio Borg told Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi that he believes there is no doubt that the Marriage Act was clear that a marriage should take place between a man and a woman.
Malta is one of the most socially conservative countries in the EU.
98% of the population are Roman Catholics, and although homosexuality is legal, there remains significant prejudice. The Mediterranean island, a British colony until 1964, has around 400,000 inhabitants and is the smallest EU state in terms of both size and population. In 2000 the government were criticised by gay rights groups for openly homophobic statements criticising EU proposals to treat gay people equally.
9th November 2007 – PinkNews
Maltese press question MEP over gay club visits
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
A leading newspaper in Malta has questioned the gay-hostile voting record of one of the country’s Member of the European Parliament in light of revelations that he is a regular at Brussels gay bars. LGBT activists are angry that David Casa, 38, voted against motions in the parliament that condemned homophobic violence and discrimination.
Newspaper Il Torca reported in September: "Many homosexuals commented with this newspaper that David Casa was seen a number of times in gay clubs in Brussels." Reporters contacted Mr Casa about these allegations and were told that he only goes to gay establishments for "politically-related events."
"Whenever I am invited from groups and organisations who fight discrimination of every kind, yes I attend," he told Il Torca. Malta is one of the most socially conservative countries in the EU. 98% of the population are Roman Catholics, and although homosexuality is legal, there remains significant prejudice. The Mediterranean island, a British colony until 1964, has around 400,000 inhabitants and is the smallest EU state in terms of both size and population.
In 2000 the government were criticised by gay rights groups for openly homophobic statements criticising EU proposals to treat gay people equally. Only 18% of the Maltese population support gay marriage, a December 2006 Eurobarometer survey found, and there is significant prejudice against the LGBT community.
21st February 2008 – PinkNews
Malta’s gay group ask for equal rights
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
The gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans communities in the tiny EU nation of Malta have presented a petition asking for a range of measures to be introduced to protect them through the law, and have received the backing of a fringe political party. Alternattiva Demokratika leader Harry Vassallo said yesterday that the recognition of gay rights would be a step forward, according to the Times of Malta. He said he was supporting the petition organised by the Malta Gay Rights Movement and signed by more than 1,000 people, asking for legal recognition of same-sex couples, a homophobic bullying strategy for the island nation’s schools and new laws targeting homophobic and transphobic crimes.
The MGRM also wants gender reassignment surgery to be made available through Malta’s public health services and goods and services protection for LGBT people. In 2004, Malta banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation after the Malta Gay Rights Movement lobbied for the measure to be included in an Employment Relations Act. Alternattiva Demokratika currently have no seats in Malta’s parliament and the MGRM proposals are unlikely to receive the backing of any of the main political parties in the country, one of the most socially conservative countries in the EU. 98% of the population are Roman Catholics, and although homosexuality is legal, there remains significant prejudice.
Malta, a British colony until 1964, has around 400,000 inhabitants and is the smallest EU state in terms of both size and population. In 2000 the government was criticised by gay rights groups for openly homophobic statements condemning EU proposals to treat gay people equally. According to a December 2006 Eurobarometer survey, only 18% of the Maltese population support gay marriage, and there is significant prejudice against the LGBT community. In July Malta’s Union of Teachers threatened to publish the details of four attempts to oust gay and lesbian teachers from Roman Catholic school posts. According to the union, Church schools were under pressure from parents to fire the teachers, leading to four interventions in the past five years.
March 23, 2008 – The Malta Independent OnLine
Gay votes ‘may have been pivotal’ in Malta election
A political party in Malta that campaigns for LGBT rights may have set back their cause by taking votes away from the country’s Labour Party. Writing in Pink News, Gavin Lambert said Labour is generally considered to be more liberal than the winning Nationalist Party, which now remains in power. In a general election earlier this month, the PN, led by Lawrence Gonzi, won the most seats in the National House Of Representatives. However, the difference between victory for the Nationalists and the Malta Labour Party (MLP) was decided by a few thousand votes. For a decade, the Green Party in Malta, Alternattiva Demokratika, and its leader Harry Vassallo, have challenged the two-party system in Malta and pushed for gay civil rights. But the party appears to have split the progressive vote in Malta, with some worrying that it may have helped hand the election to PN, who won 143,468 votes or 49.34 per cent.
They now have 35 seats in Parliament. The MLP won 141,888 votes (48.79 per cent) and gained four seats, giving them 34. Alternattiva Demokratika (AD) polled 3,810 votes, an increase of 2,681 on the 2003 election but still only 1.31 per cent of the vote and not enough to win a seat. The problem in the progressive camp, it has been claimed, is that half of voters desired change while the other half did not want Alfred Sant, the leader of the MLP, to become Prime Minister. Malta’s gay community accounts for about five per cent of the voting population, Mr Lambert claimed. Generally considered to be MLP supporters, many decided to vote for AD. Mr Vassallo said before the election that the recognition of gay rights would be a step forward, according to the Times of Malta. He said he was supporting the petition organised by the Malta Gay Rights Movement and signed by more than 1,000 people, asking for legal recognition of same-sex couples, a homophobic bullying strategy for the island nation’s schools and new laws targeting homophobic and transphobic crimes. In addition to this, Dr Patrick Attard, Malta’s only gay political candidate ran a tireless campaign for AD.
He and others ran an online campaign that targeted the gay vote on popular networking sites like Facebook and Gaydar, which are popular with the Maltese gay community. AD supporters do not concede that they played the spoiler in the 8th March election. But since MLP lost by such a narrow margin, less than one per cent of the vote, some in the MLP are certain to feel that they lost because they could not secure the gay vote. In 2004, Malta banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation after the Malta Gay Rights Movement lobbied for the measure to be included in an Employment Relations Act. However, like many of the “new” bloc of EU member States,
Malta is a conservative religious society, with 98 per cent of the population identifying as Roman Catholics, and although homosexuality is legal, there remains significant prejudice. In 2000 the PN government was criticised by gay rights groups for openly homophobic statements condemning EU proposals to treat gay people equally. According to a December 2006 Eurobarometer survey, only 18 per cent of the Maltese population support gay marriage, and there is significant prejudice against the LGBT community.
June 2, 2008 – PinkNews
Maltese government’s "inhumane" treatment of trans bride
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
A court has backed the Director of Public Registry who will not release marriage banns for a transsexual woman and her male partner in Malta. In February 2007 Justice Gino Camilleri ordered the director, Anthony Geraldi, to issue the banns on the grounds that the union is legal. He ruled, as the bride to be has now become a woman, there was no contravention of marriage legislation. However, the Civil Court has now overturned that ruling.
Mr Geraldi argues that the change in the Act of Birth of the transsexual that allows a change of name and gender was only to protect her privacy and does not mean that she can now be considered a woman in legal terms, as her surgery was cosmetic. His resistance to the marriage is not without popular support. Only 18% of the Maltese population support gay marriage, a 2006 Eurobarometer survey found.
Malta is one of the most socially conservative countries in the EU. 98% of the population are Roman Catholics, and although homosexuality is legal, there remains significant prejudice. The Mediterranean island, a British colony until 1964, has around 400,000 inhabitants and is the smallest EU state in terms of both size and population. In 2000 the government was criticised by gay rights groups for openly homophobic statements criticising EU proposals to treat gay people equally.
Gay rights groups on the island said they would take the case of the trans woman to the European Court of Human Rights.
22 October 2008 – Malta Today
Joanne to go all the way in her fight to get married
by Raphael Vassallo
Joanne Cassar will today present a Constitutional Court case against the government of Malta, after the Civil Court last May prevented her from marrying her male partner on the grounds that she was “still a man”, despite having undergone gender reassignment therapy. Describing today’s proceedings as “the last stage before the European Court of Human Rights”, the Malta Gay Rights Movement has announced it will be collecting signatures outside the law courts in Valletta this morning in solidarity with Cassar. “It takes a lot of courage to stand up for your rights, like Joanne is doing,” MGRM co-ordinator Gaby Calleja told MaltaToday. “Our initiative is more a show of support than anything else; we want her to know that she is not alone.”
The case goes back to 2006, when Cassar – who underwent a complex and expensive procedure to change her sex from male to female, and whose birth certificate has since been amended accordingly – was refused permission to marry on the basis that the Marriage Act prohibited unions between persons of the same gender. Cassar took the Marriage Registrar to court, and on February 12 2007, after noting that the proposed union did not contravene any provision of the Marriage Act, Mr Justice Gino Camilleri upheld her request and ordered the director of Public Registry to issue the marriage banns.
But the marriage registrar appealed, and in his decision to overturn the ruling last May, Mr Justice Joseph R. Micallef observed that while the Marriage Act defined marriage as a union “between a man and a woman”, Maltese law offered no legal definition of either gender. The court therefore took into account various definitions, including an affidavit signed by the former chairman of the parliamentary bio-ethics committee, Dr Michael Axiak, who wrote: “after gender reassignment therapy, a person will have remained of the same sex as before the operation.”
Mr Justice Micallef also noted that Cassar’s birth certificate, allowing a change of name and gender, was only intended to protect the right to privacy and to avoid embarrassment. He therefore upheld the marriage registrar’s request, and annulled the marriage banns. Afterwards, Ms Cassar expressed bitter disappointment at the ruling. “One court allowed me to get married but another took it away from me,” she said. The ruling nay have been a disappointment, but it came as no surprise to the MGRM’s Gabi Calleja, who confirmed that persons in Joanne Cassar’s predicament – commonly referred to as “transsexuals”, although the term is sometimes considered derogatory – generally face harsher discrimination than other sexual orientation minorities.
“Research shows that persons who underwent gender reassignment encounter more violence, including extreme violence, than gays,” she said. “They also have a harder time finding employment. There is unfortunately still a lot of ignorance on the subject.” According to Calleja, society as a whole tends to use the traditional gender binary of male/female, and persons like Joanne challenge these concepts in a way that makes some people uncomfortable.
“People like to think of sexual orientation as simply a case of black or white, but the reality is more complex than that,” she said. “There are over 6 billion people in the world, and yet we assume there are only two genders. But contrary to popular perception, gender is a social construct; it is not fixed at conception as many people believe. There could be other genders apart from simply male and female.”
MGRM firther believes that Mr Justice Micallef’s ruling is itself illegal. “In delivering this judgement, the Court goes against the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (Christine Goodwin vs. UK),” the organisation declares on its website. “Furthermore, it expressly states that a post-op transsexual cannot get married to anyone, and in doing so clear violates Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights on the right to marry, to which Malta is signatory.” Joanne Cassar has already indicated that for these and other reasons, she is willing to take her legal battle all the way to the highest court in Europe.
November 26, 2008 – PinkNews
Cyprus grants resident status to gay Iranian asylum seeker
by Tony Grew
MEPs have welcomed the decision of Cyprus interior minister to grant resident status to an gay Iranian asylum seeker. Labour’s Michael Cashman, Lib Dem Baroness Ludford, Tory John Bowis and Greens Jean Lambert and Caroline Lucas were among 13 MEPs who put their name to a parliamentary question to the European Commission on the issue. They wanted to know if the refusal of asylum to Abbas Bagherian by Cyprus on the grounds of sexual orientation was a breach of EU directives. After Cypriot MEP Panayiotis Demetriou raised the case in discussions with the interior minister, Mr Bagherian was granted residency.
"I strongly welcome the decision to allow Mr Bagherian to remain in Cyprus," said Baroness Ludford, Liberal Democrat justice and human rights spokeswoman and an MEP for London. "A rejection of his application and his return to Iran would have left him vulnerable to imprisonment, torture and in the worst case the death penalty, simply for being gay. I hope that we are starting to see a general move in EU countries to recognise the validity of asylum claims based on the risk of persecution due to sexual orientation. There should be a consistent EU policy, because such fears may be absolutely justified regarding a country like Iran."
The treatment of lesbian and gay Iranians in the UK became a subject of controversy earlier this year when a campaign by The Independent newspaper, MPs, MEPs, gay rights groups and members of the House of Lords led Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to grant asylum to a young Iranian man. Mehdi Kazemi, 20, left Iran in 2004 to travel to England on a student visa and continue his education. Two years later while still in the UK he learned that Iranian authorities had arrested his boyfriend Parham, who had been forced to name Mr Kazemi as someone with whom he had had a relationship.
Mr Kazemi’s father then received a visit from the Tehran police, with an arrest warrant for his son. In late April 2006, Medhi’s uncle told him Parham had been put to death. Mr Kazemi’s request for asylum was turned down by the United Kingdom. After fearing for his life he fled to Netherlands and sought asylum there. The Dutch authorities returned him to the UK. He was finally granted asylum but there are other gay people facing deportation back to Iran.
Since Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979, human rights groups claim that between 3,000 and 4,000 people have been executed under Sharia law for the crime of homosexuality.
December 9, 2008 – PinkNews
Maltese gays want to emigrate because of discrimination
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
Three-quarters of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in Malta would emigrate if they had the chance, according to a new survey. 150 people took paste in the Malta Gay Rights Movement poll. 74% said they would emigrate if possible and 67% said discrimination was a key factor. MGRM also released accounts of violence faced by LGBT people in Malta. According to the Times of Malta, eight per cent of poll respondents said they had been beaten or attacked in the past two years because of their sexual orientation – two-thirds were young women.
"They stopped the car in the middle of the street and came out to attack us," said one girl. "One man pulled up my girlfriend’s skirt and touched her. I pushed them and hit them in self-defence. All of this happened in front of the police station but nobody came to our rescue."
45% of the 150 respondents had been harassed by friends or acquaintances and 37% by co-workers. In July the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) released its legal analysis of homophobia and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the 27 member states. It concluded that Maltese people in same-sex relationships "are not treated in a like manner to heterosexual couples simply because of their sexual orientation." Even Maltese citizens who enter a legally valid, same-sex union in another country may find their relationship is not recognised in their own country.
The report on Malta concluded that members of the LGBT community do not receive the same protection and rights as heterosexuals. Maltese law states that marriage can only be between persons of the opposite sex. This lack of recognition means same-sex spouses of EU citizens do not enjoy the same rights, such as freedom of movement within the EU, as opposite-sex spouses in Malta, which contravenes EU legislation. EU law stipulates that not only legally-recognised unions, but also de-facto relationships between members of the same sex should be treated no differently to heterosexual unions.
This lack of recognition of same-sex unions also affects the status of refugees. A refugee in a same-sex relationship with an EU citizen would not have the same legal protection as a refugee in a heterosexual relationship. The report also highlights the discrimination faced by transsexuals in Malta, as there is no formal procedure for changing one’s gender status in law.
January 12, 2009 – PinkNews
Maltese gay politician excommunicates himself from Catholic Church
by Tony Grew
The first openly gay candidate for parliament in Malta has protested against the Pope’s hostility to homosexuality by leaving the Roman Catholic Church. Dr.Ing. Patrick Attard contested last year’s general election for the Green Party in Malta, Alternattiva Demokratika. He excommunicated himself from the Catholic Church at the Chancellor’s office in the Curia on Saturday. The Pope was widely condemned after he said in an end of year sermon to senior Church leaders just before Christmas that homosexuality is a destruction of God’s work.
Last month the Vatican objected to a statement at the UN which restated that universal human rights apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people.
Dr Attard said gay priests should follow his lead and abandon the Church. "I do not want the government to assume I am part of this hate-preaching organisation just because I was baptised," he said. "Since the Curia does not want to disassociate itself from the Pope’s hateful remarks he preached on the 22nd December 2008, where he called homosexuality a destruction of God’s work, then there is no choice but to excommunicate myself publicly from this power and money-hungry institution. I would like to thank my parents for baptising me. I am certain they did this with the best intentions. However when one reads the documents written by the Vatican there is a lot of paranoia and even hatred towards gays. This is ongoing till today and can be viewed in Joseph’s Ratzinger’s writings (among others) and it is important to stand up and say: enough is enough."
He also gave instructions about how others in Malta can leave the Church. "The person who wishes to Excommunicate himself from the Church should make an appointment with the Curia’s Chancellor, take his/her Identity Card and write a declaration that he left the Catholic Church. This declaration should include the place and date of baptism. The declaration is also signed by the Chancellor on behalf of the Catholic Church. The date of baptism is written on the Baptism Certificate which can be obtained from the Parish Office of the village where the cermony took place."
Dr Attard claimed that all political parties in Malta, the smallest nation in the EU, are afraid to criticise the Church "due to the potential loss of votes and Malta is considered to have more than 96% Catholics. "Just because of the number of people baptised, it is important to close this chapter by excommunication so as we are not erroneously considered as Catholics." He claimed that the Roman Catholic Church should be "held accountable" for the suffering of gay people in Malta and "is to be held indirectly responsible for a number of gay suicides in these islands.
"Trying to hide this fact would not allow us to learn from the past and help people today." The Roman Catholic Church’s representative at the United Nations led opposition to the statement on the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people read out at the General Assembly last month. Archbishop Celestino Migliore said the Vatican opposed the use of the phrases "gender identity" and "sexual orientation" in the statement as they have no definition in international law and are cultural concepts. "The Holy See appreciates the attempts made to condemn all forms of violence against homosexual persons as well as urge states to take necessary measures to put an end to all criminal penalties against them," he said.
The Chuch claims that the statement, which was supported by 66 countries, including all 27 EU member states, "goes beyond this goal and instead gives rise to uncertainty in the law and challenges existing human rights norms." Despite the fact the statement is not legally binding, the Vatican claims it "would create serious uncertainty in the law as well as undermine the ability of states to enter into and enforce new and existing human-rights conventions and standards."
Just before Christmas the Pope said man must be protected "from the destruction of himself" and urged respect for the "nature of the human being as man and woman." "The tropical forests do deserve our protection. But man, as a creature, does not deserve any less." The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement was outraged. "It is comments like this that justify homophobic bullying that goes on in schools and that justify gay bashing," said LGCM chief executive Rev Sharon Ferguson.
January 20, 2009 – PinkNews
Malta’s government accused of double standards on gay rights
by Tony Grew
An opposition MP in Malta has accused the government of ignoring the rights of gay people now they have been re-elected. Evarist Bartolo of the Partit Laburista (Labour Party) said that at a pre-election meeting with Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) the government had said it was in favour of such an EU directive. The Times of Malta reports that the EU was proposing the insertion of a directive "against discrimination in several aspects, including gays. The government was maintaining that the directive was still premature and that things should be allowed to mature before incorporating such a directive in Maltese law."
Partit Nazzjonalista, the Christian Democracts, won re-election in March 2008. Labour said they were treated in "a cynical, derisory and depreciative" manner when they raised gay couples during a debate on rent reform last week. Mr Bartolo said that in meetings before the election with MGRM representatives, PN had said appeared to be supportive of gay rights.
In July the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) released its legal analysis of homophobia and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the 27 member states. It concluded that Maltese people in same-sex relationships "are not treated in a like manner to heterosexual couples simply because of their sexual orientation." Even Maltese citizens who enter a legally valid, same-sex union in another country may find their relationship is not recognised in their own country. The report on Malta concluded that members of the LGBT community do not receive the same protection and rights as heterosexuals.
Maltese law states that marriage can only be between persons of the opposite sex. This lack of recognition means same-sex spouses of EU citizens do not enjoy the same rights, such as freedom of movement within the EU, as opposite-sex spouses in Malta, which contravenes EU legislation. EU law stipulates that not only legally-recognised unions, but also de-facto relationships between members of the same sex should be treated no differently to heterosexual unions.
The report also highlights the discrimination faced by transsexuals in Malta, as there is no formal procedure for changing one’s gender status in law. Three-quarters of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in Malta would emigrate if they had the chance, according to a survey released last month. 150 people took paste in the MGRM poll. 74% said they would emigrate if possible and 67% said discrimination was a key factor. 45% of the respondents had been harassed by friends or acquaintances and 37% by co-workers. MGRM also released accounts of violence faced by LGBT people in Malta.
January 28, 2009 – PinkNews
People who reject Church teaching on homosexuality should leave says bishop
by Tony Grew
A Roman Catholic leader in Malta has said that church members who do not accept "Christ’s teachings" should leave altogether. Mario Grech, the Bishop of Gozo, commented after the first openly gay candidate for parliament in Malta protested against the Pope’s hostility to homosexuality by leaving the Roman Catholic Church. Dr Ing Patrick Attard contested last year’s general election for the Green Party in Malta, Alternattiva Demokratika. He excommunicated himself from the Catholic Church at the Chancellor’s office in the Curia earlier this month.
The Pope was widely condemned after he said in an end of year sermon to senior Church leaders just before Christmas that homosexuality is a destruction of God’s work. Last month the Vatican objected to a statement at the UN which restated that universal human rights apply to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people.
Bishop Grech said: "Whoever does not accept Christ’s teachings should be honest with themselves and excommunicate themselves from the Church."
In an article for the Malta Independent a gay man accused the church of "abusive practice" because it baptises babies. "It is high time, I respectfully submit, for gay men and lesbians to confront head on the "encouragement" for gay men and lesbians to excommunicate themselves," said Joseph Carmel Chetcuti.
"For far too long, gay men and lesbians have been treated like mushrooms. In the context of Christian theology, baptism is a device by which a person becomes a Christian. No passage in Scripture suggests that baptism is a device by which a person becomes a member of that Church that calls itself one, holy, catholic and apostolic: see, for example, Acts 2:38 and 22:16 and 1 Corinthians 12:13. Significantly, St John the Baptist who baptised Christ was, as far as I know, not a Roman Catholic.
"Given Pope Benedict’s decision to put an end to limbo, infant baptism is an abusive practice and one that disregards the rights of children. As yet again demonstrated, the Roman Catholic hierarchy is all about structure and doctrine. It stubbornly refuses to accept its children in all of their diversity. I now wonder whether heterosexuals who do not accept the Church’s teachings on the pill should also excommunicate themselves. And what about those abusive priests and nuns? Will the Church continue to protect them as it has done in the past?"
After he excommunicated himself Dr Attard said gay priests should follow his lead and abandon the Church. "I do not want the government to assume I am part of this hate-preaching organisation just because I was baptised," he said.
"Since the Curia does not want to disassociate itself from the Pope’s hateful remarks he preached on the 22nd December 2008, where he called homosexuality a destruction of God’s work, then there is no choice but to excommunicate myself publicly from this power and money-hungry institution. I would like to thank my parents for baptising me. I am certain they did this with the best intentions. However when one reads the documents written by the Vatican there is a lot of paranoia and even hatred towards gays. This is ongoing till today and can be viewed in Joseph’s Ratzinger’s writings (among others) and it is important to stand up and say: enough is enough."
Dr Attard claimed that all political parties in Malta, the smallest nation in the EU, are afraid to criticise the Church "due to the potential loss of votes and Malta is considered to have more than 96% Catholics. "Just because of the number of people baptised, it is important to close this chapter by excommunication so as we are not erroneously considered as Catholics.
1 April 2009 – Times of Malta
‘Gays, lesbians still experience discrimination’
by Ivan Camilleri, Brussels
Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Malta still feel they are victims of discrimination, according to an EU report issued yesterday in Brussels. The discrimination is felt particularly in areas such as health services and education. The report was drawn up by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) and based on country reports and an EU-wide survey. The research found that many in Malta still conceal their sexual orientation from relatives, fearing a negative reaction. However, the majority of those who decide to be open are generally met with acceptance within their family.
Nearly a third of LGBT people in Malta say they conceal their sexual orientation when accessing health services, again fearing discrimination. As for education, information gathered locally on homophobic bullying, harassment and violence shows that Maltese transgender students are particularly affected by prejudice. Many drop out of school or skip classes because of bullying, harassment or lack of understanding by teachers and students. The report also highlights the fact that the Maltese gay lobby is finding it very difficult to improve its rights as "calls… have invariably been met with negative responses from some politicians and representatives of religious institutions or groups".
While the Maltese were found to be quite comfortable with having LGBT persons as their neighbours, only 18 per cent agreed with the statement that LGBT couples should have a legal right to get married and only seven per cent – the lowest level among the EU 27 member states – agreed that these couples should be permitted to adopt children. According to the report, the promotion of diversity regarding sexual orientation is often difficult in environments controlled by religious organisations hostile to LGBT issues. It claims that Maltese LGBT NGOs have been blocked or ignored by school authorities when attempting to raise awareness and combat homophobia in schools.
"In Malta, where the Catholic Church administers around one third of the schools, the Malta Gay Rights Movement has reportedly been barred from disseminating leaflets of education materials that present LGBT issues," the report says. On a general EU level, despite considerable advances in recent years, the social situation for LGBT people throughout the European Union is still considered to be a problem, particularly in the eastern member states. Discrimination, bullying, harass-ment and attacks take place across the EU while politicians in a number of eastern member states seem to side with or turn a blind eye to the perpetrators, according to the report.
13th October 2009 – Times of Malta
Half of University students agree with gay marriage – survey
Almost half of University students believe gay marriage should be introduced in Malta, according to a survey conducted by the new student organisation, Move.The group says it represents ‘progressive’ students. When asked whether gay marriage should be legalised in Malta, 49 percent said yes, 35 percent said no and 16 percent said they were undecided. The survey’s results, which will be published in more detail tomorrow, are bound to raise a few eyebrows since they paint a picture of a surprisingly liberal student body.
Another recent survey, by the University Chaplaincy, found that the overwhelming majority of students disagreed with the Church’s teachings on divorce, artificial contraception and pre-marital sex. The University Chaplaincy’s survey did not ask about gay marriage, but found that only 44 per cent of students were against divorce. Three quarters of students said there was nothing wrong with pre-marital sex and that cohabitation should be approved.
Move’s survey was carried out during Freshers’ Week where around 400 Maltese students were randomly selected to give their opinions on a number of issues, ranging from the morning-after pill to whether condoms should be available on campus. The results will be discussed in more detail during the launch of Move, as a new student organisation. The launch will be followed by a debate on sexual health issues, also organised by Move, asking "whether the promotion and usage of condoms can help in the decrease of sexually transmitted diseases". It will feature students from the faculties of Theology and Medicine.
30th October 2009 – The Times of Malta
Call for equal rights for all forms of family
by Claudia Calleja
Religious beliefs should not influence decisions to enact laws giving equal rights to gay people because it is the role of parliamentarians to ensure there is no discrimination between citizens. "We need the necessary legislation changes to ensure different forms of families are recognised as equal before the law, irrespective of sexual orientation… This is not about religion but basic human rights," Malta Gay Rights Movement coordinator Gabi Calleja said. Ms Calleja echoed the words of Labour education spokesman Evarist Bartolo who insisted gay rights were human rights and the government should not adopt the argument that the country was not ready to uphold them.
"The time is now. Countries can afford to wait but life is too short for those men and women who just want to be treated like the heterosexuals around them," he said during a conference organised by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA-Europe). His words were greeted with loud applause by activists from 49 countries who attended the annual conference that runs until Sunday. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Louis Galea, also stressed the importance of upholding the rights of everyone irrespective of their sexual orientation.
While he supported equal rights, Dr Galea said he was still "searching for the truth" about same-sex marriages. It was important that dialogue continued on various subjects such as the conflicts between religious beliefs and the interests of same-sex couples. While Malta did not have a specific law for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBTs), he said rights were safeguarded through various laws that touched upon employment and gender equality, among other things. But, Ms Calleja noted, addressing issues faced by LGBT specifically in legislation guaranteed protection and security and would help bring about a change in mentality.
President George Abela, who met the ILGA conference representatives on Wednesday, stressed the importance of information and education in tackling discrimination, increasing tolerance and accepting of differences. In an effort to start changing ingrained misperceptions, four awareness-raising posters will be put up on Malta’s bus stops to promote tolerance towards different types of families.
"We are asking for the recognition of what already exists. In Malta we have same-sex couples who live as a family," Ms Calleja said. The posters – labelled Different Families, Same Love – highlight the challenges that LGBT families and their children face due to the lack of legal recognition.