The Cohabitation Bill is a zero-starting point

Following months of meetings with the Maltese Government to discuss possible forms of legal recognition of same-sex relationships, aditus foundation can only describe the Bill presented today as a regrettable failure.  This is based on the zero-starting point presented through the Bill which, although being offered as a tool to recognise same-sex relationships, effectively does nothing to alter the present barren legal scenario.

Having carefully analysed the Bill and its possible implications, aditus wishes to highlight that most of the ‘rights’ created therein are already accessible today by any person.  Anyone, including a homosexual couple, may approach any notary and regulate issues such as shared or common property and payments to any other person that could easily be termed ‘maintenance’.

The Bill is over-burdened with references to financial elements, reducing same-sex relationships to quasi-commercial transactions between two persons, and several issues are either unclear or the result of unrefined legal drafting.

For example, it is not clear whether eligibility for registration of a civil cohabitation partnership requires fulfillment of the ‘cohabitant’ criteria found in Article 3, namely the requirement of cohabitation of two years or more where children are involved or of five years in other cases.  If this interpretation were correct, then same-sex couples would be required to firstly cohabit for the required number of years in order to be able to register their relationships.  Marriage contains no such requirement.

It is also unclear whether the criteria in Article 3(1)(a) or (b) – relating to the duration of the relationship – are sufficient for registration of civil cohabitation partnerships or whether the criteria in Article 3(2) – relating to other circumstances – will also be taken into account at the registration stage.

We also cannot understand why same-sex couples are required to have received legal advice as a precondition to registration, when a far more serious contract as is marriage does not require any form or such advice, training or even basic information.

We were also expecting the Bill to ensure that third-country nationals in same-sex relationships with Maltese nationals would be granted permission to enter, stay and work in Malta.  The Bill makes no mention of this element, and neither of the need to guarantee the freedom of movement rights of EU nationals moving to Malta through recognition of marriages or partnerships validly contracted in other EU Member States.

These points seem to reflect the Bill’s overall policy assumptions, namely that same-sex relationships are ‘special’ relationships, often riddled with abuse and exploitation and thereby requiring protection for weaker parties.

For all of the above reasons, aditus foundation is extremely disappointed at the Bill’s achievement in being an absolute zero-starting point that promotes the inherent unequal dignity of human beings.

aditus reiterates the argumentation and recommendations made in MGRM’s Position Paper on marriage Equality, authored by aditus Director Dr. Neil Falzon as MGRM’s Legal Advisor, essentially strongly advocating for the fullest legal recognition of same-sex relationships through marriage equality.

“Regrettably, despite genuine efforts at constructive dialogue with the Minister, the Bill is largely a disappointing and failed attempt to engage with Malta’s gay community.  

This is absolutely not the result of dialogue, at least not as we understand the term.” (Dr. Neil Falzon, aditus foundation Director)