Today, the parliament of the tiny European republic of Malta -- an island nation located south of Italy, in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea -- is expected to pass a bill legalizing civil unions for same-sex couples.
The new partnership recognition structure will allow gays and lesbians all the rights and responsibilities of marriage, including adoption rights, just under a different name.
Malta Today reports:
When one thinks that until a few years ago, Malta did not even allow divorce, one can only conclude that this is a historic moment in terms of social justice and equality.
When the Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM) was formed at the turn of the century, it started to articulate discourse for equal rights in terms of sexual identity. Small progressive movements - Moviment Graffitti being one of them - immediately supported MGRM's calls.
Eventually others joined in, including Alternattiva Demokratika - The Green Party, Zminijietna Voice of the Left and a rainbow of new NGOs speaking up in terms of LGBT and Civil rights, such as Auditus and Drachma. Opinionists and journalists from media outlets such as Malta Today played an important role in articulating discourse along the lines of MGRM. An informal, fluid and broad alliance - a chain of equivalence - was formed around the demand for equality.
Last year, Pope Francis reportedly told Maltese bishop Charles Scicluna that he was "shocked" and "saddened" by the civil unions bill. But Dr. Joseph Muscat, the Prime Minister of Malta, refused to back down, stating earlier this year, "I will not budge on the matter."
Obviously, while anything short of full marriage equality, even separate-but-unequal civil unions, is not ultimately an acceptable solution for same-sex couples, Malta is taking a wonderful step towards equality. Congratulations to all the advocates who worked so hard to make this important step possible!