Blogging being the very private enterprise that it is (and the one-man exercise too) there are times when the frequency and immediacy of posts is not exactly up to scratch. That this week has been one of those times is the result of a combination of circumstances that are best not delved into (especially since they involve exposing the lazier side of me). Having said that much has been happening that deserves the J’accuse once over and it would be a shame not to at least give the past ten days or so the I.M. Jack treatment.
1. What’s so gay about marriage?
We have to begin with the number one pet peeve that J’accuse has had all this week. If I was to pick it up from its backside then I’d say the whole issue is about gay marriage – or to give it the politically correct moniker: same-sex marriage. We have seen the protests, the rock stars (!) gone political, the pressure groups getting miffed, the supposed civil rights groups getting hoity toity and the inevitable bandwagon politicians yelling “What-ho” and all that. Why? Well apparently Minister Chris Said, is guilty of not having introduced same-sex marriage or a legally decent equivalent when he produced the Civil Partnerships Cohabitation bill (or whatever its name may be) out of the Nationalist government’s pre-electoral hat.
Really MGRM? Say what Aditus? No same-sex marriage eh? How horrible. Devastating. The only problem is that the bill intended on putting civil unions within a more sound legal framework was never intended to introduce gay marriage. What various pressure groups were “given to understand” is legally, constitutionally and politically irrelevant. A cohabitation bill is a cohabitation bill is a cohabitation bill. Across Europe one can witness a variety of do-it-yourself models of civil partnership laws. They are all intended to be a sort of package of rights for people who live together but who DO NOT WANT TO or CAN NOT get married. Siblings living together is the least controversial of examples.
Not gay marriage though. It has absolutely nothing to do with it. Of course you can site examples of countries where short of obtaining the ultimate (and most obvious) solution of legally sanctioned same-sex marriages, the nation has settled for a similar package of rights that does not go by the name of marriage but gets rather close to it. This was never the case in Malta. At least not from a legislative point of view. Civil unions, cohabiting persons or what have you – the idea is to get this set of persons a bundle of rights under Maltese law.
Same-sex marriage has nothing to do with this. Neither does the concept of family which the Minister was drawn into commenting upon. All the ruckus about discrimination within the context of “marriage” is a false alarm. Now if we were talking about a bill to introduce same-sex marriage in Malta. Now that would be another thing altogether – and J’accuse would be right behind the inevitable process where persons of the same sex are allowed to tie the knot and have that union recognised as a marriage under civil law.
2. So what is the bill about?
Sadly for the nationalist party it is beginning to be a bit of an enigma what the bill should really be about. This blog still sticks by its theory that the bill is being forced through because of a pre-electoral pact struck hurriedly around 2008. As has rightly been pointed out in other quarters (MaltaToday methinks), the inability of the conservative elements of the party to come to terms with the liberal content of this kind of legislation has led to a half-baked law that manages to insult sectors of society by treating them as second class citizens. Even without the useless conflagration about what constitutes family, the nationalist government could not really believe to get away with a law that blatantly discriminates between classes of citizens when defining the same right.
It should have been so simple really. A clearly defined framework of rights that would be available to any two persons entering a civil union. Property rights, fiscal rights and social service rights to begin with. Issues of gender would have been cleanly skirted and most controversy would have been set aside barring the few nitpicking details. That we are where we are – and that controversy has not only not been skirted but is dancing naked on the tables of Said’s ministry – is a clear indication of the Faustian pact entered into before last election. The gay sector is very obviously (and rightly, in an opportunistic sense) up in arms. On the one hand it has every reason to do so given the bumbled manner in which the law discriminates between types of partnerships and on the other it is taking advantage of the sudden outburst of public sympathy to drive same-sex marriage into the agenda even though it was evidently not the original aim of the bill.
Just what the doctor ordered innit?
3. Joseph and the Rainbow Coloured Fence
Muscat is having a hard time disguising his glee at the PN’s latest faux pas in the world of gays, lesbians and other happy people. He should be careful. The MGRM community is thankfully not headed by a bunch of gullible sods who will drool at every ambiguous word thrown at them by politicians. I am sure that by now they can tell a bandwagon riding politician (and party) when they see one – even if it flies the rainbow flag on party HQ on gay pride days. What the MGRM could do is try to take advantage of the apparent openness of someone like Joseph Muscat – and boy would they be courting trouble.
Take his declaration yesterday when he stated that politicians have no right to decide who is a family. Would you really yell bingo? Is this really as liberal as it sounds? Let me spell it out for you: it is about as liberal as the pope’s underwear. What this is, in fact, is a declaration of yet another open season of fence-sitting by dear Joseph. Just like in the divorce debate, Joseph plans not to lead but to fence-sit and declare “free vote” season again. Joseph is correct when he says that it is not a politician’s right to determine who forms a family.
Joseph forgets a second, more important, and responsible corollary though : that it is a politician’s duty to listen to the needs of society – the interest of the common good and the rights of minorities – and ensure that these needs are properly safeguarded by participating in the enacting of laws to that effect. A same-sex marriage law will not write itself while Joseph, Owen and Varist are busy waving rainbow flags in some protest walk. A same-sex marriage law will be drafted, presented and voted in by responsible politicians who responsibly read the signs of times and legislate the obviously inevitable. Something tells me it won’t be Inhobbkom Joseph.
4. Franco rebutted
Before I start the usual rant about Malta’s unpreparedness come the first storms let me just point out that this evening’s rebuttal by the PN executive of any Franco attempt to get reinstated onto their list of candidates is just par for the course according to J’accuse’s pre-estival predictions. The time-table has long been set and parliament does not have a very long life beyond the opening session once summer recess is over. Trust you me… the PN is not counting on Franco voting for any bill and Franco knows this only too well hence his latest private members’ bill regarding fuel oil – a bid to get voters for his inevitable splinter “party” come next elections.
5. It never rains…
Xita happens. Nuff said.