Jan 212013
Gay voters

It is becoming a reality, at least in most of the western world, that the pink vote is given great importance. One particular recent example comes from the USA were President Barack Obama’s victory came about thanks to the pink vote. In fact, Obama and Mitt Romney went neck to neck in the straight vote and the pink vote was the determining factor, over 75 per cent of the gay vote going to Obama.

I dare not say or dream of this happening in Malta, far from it, but, nowadays, political parties take into account, whether for the greed of the vote or because it is their genuine intention, this section of voters that figures about five per cent (if not more).

Personally, being in an eight-year long relationship, my wish is that of equal (civil) marriage. Being a realistic person, I realise that civil union is, at the moment, the acceptable format of recognition. From all the countries that have marriage equality, none introduced this state immediately, not even Holland, perhaps the most liberal of countries, did legalise marriage equality from day one. They went through a process from civil partnership to marriage equality.

Although societies are highly or medium tolerant, a government dare not cause a shockwave for society and rightly so. Immediate marriage equality might end up doing more harm than good to the gay community.

I would like to take a look at our three political parties:

Alternattiva Demokratika is a very small party that, given the present electoral system, hardly has a chance of electing a single member of Parliament, unless there is an astronomical swing in its favour.

As it has nothing to lose, it is showing interest in full marriage equality including adoption rights. As I mentioned above, this is our ultimate goal but at the moment it is far-fetched.

We have to keep in mind that gays have become very visible, mostly over the last two decades, and, still, certain categories of local society frown on gay people. Imagine what a shock this would be to society!

As everybody knows, the Nationalist Party is the Conservative party of Malta. Although gays are found within their ranks, it is hard for these people to express themselves within the party. They are constantly frowned upon and just tolerated, as long as they ‘hide’ their sexual orientation.

One might argue that in the last legislature they had an openly gay MP but, out of respect to this person, I do not wish to comment on this matter.

In 1998, the party promised a cohabitation law but certainly they did not have in mind of including gay couples in this law at the time.

It took them almost 14 years to just table a draft law and this was an insult to both gay and heterosexual couples because, apart from two minor adjustments, it did not offer any civil rights. This was actually booted to the side as nothing was heard of it.

Apparently the PN is still adamant of introducing this Cohabitation Bill (perhaps with some minor changes, who knows). But whatever this proposition might be, it would still make us second class citizens.

Although the Labour Party is against marriage equality, they have been speaking of gay rights for the past four years. Yes, Joseph Muscat was against this concept when he was elected but being an open-minded person, and with the help of others, he evolved his position and I say, why not, a politician has to evolve and update his ideas on all aspects of life.

Obviously, this evolvement cannot be attributed only to the party leader but to most of the party itself. There are various people who worked hard to move the party towards today’s stance. Proof of this evolvement was the setting up of LGBT Labour, which has served to move the gay idea forward within the party.

As everybody by now knows, the PL is proposing civil unions for gay couples, the second best option, but a good starting point.

What is of interest is that the PL is proposing a consultative committee to study laws that involve the gay community. It is obvious that they, if elected, do not want to impose a law on the gay community but are inviting gay people to be active in what really concerns them. The PL did not just stop at this but is also proposing a gender identity law and the signing of Protocol 12 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of the Council of Europe.

Furthermore, it is also proposing the widening of the remit of the Employment Commission to cover discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

In conclusion, if gay people have their life’s interests at heart, they must not vote blindly but study hard their situation and think of the life they wish to live. We have to evaluate carefully what is being said and act upon it to the best of our interest.

Now I dare to say that Malta has moved on politically and our thoughts must go beyond political interests, whatever they are or might have been.

Carmel Bayliss

Gay people at election-time – timesofmalta.com