Adam Dupuis's picture

Why Is Malta's Passage Of Marriage Equality Law So Important?

"Husband and wife" to be changed to "spouse" in all existing laws in Malta.

Whenever a new nation legalizes same-sex marriage, there's a couple of things that happen.  Besides shouting from the roof tops "Welcome To The Family!!!", there's also great contemplation as to who will be next.

Each victory and addition also does cause reflection. It's often considered bad luck to ask "why did we win", but when a new nation is added to the marriage equality team, we should look at what their addition to the family means to the fight.

Malta - a nation just 122 square miles / 316 kilometers, having a population of 450,000 - is one of the smallest countries in the world. It's size is not the most important fact in regard to the fight for marriage equality for all, but what is an important fact is that the Constitution of Malta declares Catholicism as the state religion. The Catholic Church had opposed the marriage equality legislation from the beginning, even before it was officially introduced.  When the Labor government won a second term just last month, it promised to introduce marriage equality as its first law.  Both of the other major political parties also supported the same sex legislation. It would seem that the Catholic church would be the only major group in the country to oppose the law spearheaded by Equality Minister Helena Dalli. 

Malta has been going through a major transition in the past decade in regards to the rights of its citizens.  This could be just another step to "modernize the institution of marriage", extending it to all consenting adult couples.  Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says it would be "discriminatory" to have separate laws for heterosexual and gay marriages. Same sex couples were able to obtain civil unions since 2014 as well as adopt.  Another recent step in transforming marriage in Malta occurred in 2011 when divorce was finally legalized.

What may also have swayed public opinion was that there were more civil unions preformed last year than church weddings, a first for the nation.

But the Catholic Church is still strong in its negativity toward same-sex marriage.

Archbishop Charles Scicluna has opposed the gay marriage law, reflecting the church's longstanding view that marriage is only between a man and woman.

"I can decide that a carob and an orange should no longer be called by their name," he said in a homily a few days after parliament started debating the legislation. "But a carob remains a carob and an orange remains an orange. And marriage, whatever the law says, remains an eternal union exclusive to a man and a woman."

Besides changing everything to "spouse" instead of "husband and wife", "father" and "mother" will become "parents", and "maiden name" will become "surname at birth".

 

So if such a Catholic nation, one that traces is importance and place in history back to the bible, if such a nation can move forward and embrace equality like this, there's even more hope now for other nations to follow Malta's example of progress.

Does this signify the Catholic church giving up on fighting us for our rights?

Does this signify that intelligent nations are realizing that, yes, there is a separation of church and state?

We will see which nation will take note of Malta's success.