Malta votes to legalise same-sex marriage by 66-1

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Gay couples have been able to enter into civil partnerships since 2014

LGBT equality campaigners in Malta last had cause to celebrate in 2014 when the government passed a bill allowing civil unions

By Tom Batchelor

MPs on the predominantly Catholic island of Malta have voted to legalise same-sex marriage.

In a vote passed by 66-1, Malta’s parliament approved legislation replacing the traditional “you are now husband and wife” declaration in civil ceremonies with “you are now spouses”.

The sole MP who voted against the change said he did so because of his faith.

“A Christian politician cannot leave his conscience outside the door” when he enters parliament, Edwin Vassallo said.

It follows the passage of a bill in 2014 that granted gay couples in Malta the right to civil partnerships.

Adoption by same-sex couples has also been legal since that date, although abortion remains banned.

Last year, the number of exclusively civil marriages eclipsed the number of church weddings for the first time.

The move is further evidence of Malta’s transformation from a once-conservative nation of about 440,000 people, where divorce was illegal until 2011.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said it would be “discriminatory” to have separate laws for mixed and same-sex couples. The amendments to existing laws replace references to “husband and wife” with the gender-neutral term “spouse”.

The law also calls for the removal of the terms “father” and “mother”, to be substituted by “parents”. Lesbian couples who have children via medical interventions are distinguished by the terms “the person who gave birth” and “the other parent”.

Other changes concern heterosexual marriages: Any reference to “maiden name” is replaced with “surname at birth”, while couples can now choose what surname to take after marriage.

More than a dozen European countries have legalised same-sex marriage, all in the western part of the continent.

Almost a dozen others, including Italy, have some sort of same-sex unions or civil partnerships.

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