The government and opposition in Malta have agreed to change the country’s Constitution to protect LGBTI people.
The decision comes as the politicians prepare to vote for lesbian and gay civil unions, offering similar rights and responsibilities to marriage, which also have cross-party support.
The civil unions legislation is expected to pass as early as this week. But the constitutional changes may take a little longer.
Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Claudette Buttigieg has tabled a private members bill to change the Constitution so people are protected from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
But the government Labour Party has said gender identity should also be added, protecting transgender and intersex people too.
Civil rights minister Helena Dalli said: ‘Categorizing gender identity under sexual orientation is not accurate and therefore it is important to make a distinction and introduce the amendment.’
The proposal to include gender identity has now been backed by the opposition Nationalist Party, reports Malta Today.
Buttigieg said: ‘Let’s avoid political bickering over such matters which do not benefit the people or Parliament. People out there have high expectations and we should deliver.’
The Mediterranean island nation of Malta, Gozo and Comino has a population of over 450,000 and appears keen to keep up with other European Union members on LGBTI issues. The changes are also likely to benefit the country’s important tourism industry.