Mark Anthony Falzon penned a piece in today’s Times called “Kill the Cohabitation Bill” in which he argues that the best thing to do with the cohabitation bill is to dump it or kill it. ”The Bill proposes to give rights to people who don’t need and/or want them and deny them to those who do. It is quite simply an ass’s ass.” – Mark Mark’s words. I don’t agree with Mark. I don’t agree at all. The fundamental difference between what Mark is advocating and what I have been advocating from this little corner of the punditry universe is that Malta needs a Civil Partnerships Bill.
Thing is that what Malta also seems to be ready for is legislation allowing Same-Sex Marriage. There’s more to it. What happened in Malta is that we trod down the path towards a law regulating Civil Partnerships only as a result of a sort of compromise between the legislators and LGBT lobby groups. That is why we are hearing all this talk of “the Cohabitation Bill is not what we were led to believe that it would be”.
So yeah. Killing the Cohabitation Bill because it fails to take the same-sex marriage issue by the horns is a bit like wanting to shoot down a bill aimed at improving conditions for cyclists because such a bill discriminates against motorists. I’m not a big fan of the cohabitation nomenclature and would have much preferred a Civil Unions Bill or something similar. What’s in a name and all that? More crucially I believe that with some bona fide tweaking the bill that is currently on the table could become a valuable legal instrument that could be useful to quite a few citizens – by filling important lacunae that end up being uselessly discriminatory.
As for “intended” or “promised” bills relating to same-sex marriages. Well the enactment of a Civil Unions Bill should not in any way preclude serious work and progress in a parallel field of legislating same-sex marriages. Free of the contorted compromises and half-baked solutions, a draft bill with clear and concrete position on same-sex marriage and ancillary rights is not only the correct basis for proper decisions but also benefits all parties concerned.
Such a same-sex marriage bill would also oblige the shufflers and equivocators within the traditional party system to stop fence-sitting and get down to concrete action. Joseph Muscat will finally have to bear the decision making responsibility and stop faffing around with rainbow coloured flags while going nowhere. Same goes for any other politician who thought he could pull a smart one with the LGBT community by promising some half-baked bill (the legislative equivalent of promising with fingers crossed behind their back).
Meanwhile the serendipitous package of rights that is developing around what is currently called the Cohabitation Partnerships Bill deserves more respect from all parties. It does not need any killing or euthanasia attempts. It needs the right attention from the right parties.
Don’t Kill the bill.