Three years ago Malta legalized divorce, and now same-sex couples will have the same legal rights as married straight unions
The island nation of Malta has finally passed civil unions for gay couples tonight (14 April).
Traditionally conservative, the small European Catholic nation has given gay couples the right to have their union recognized.
With the opposition choosing to abstain from the vote, the Labour-led government passed the bill Monday evening.
President Marie Louise Coleiro Preca, who said she had ‘no problems’ giving gay couples civil unions, is expected to sign the bill as early as tomorrow.
Gay campaigners said they were ‘jubilant’ at the news, holding a celebration at the square outside the parliament building in Valletta.
Malta is a very Catholic country, with divorce only becoming legal in 2011, so gay campaigners said they were ‘jubilant’ at the news.
‘This bill is incredibly welcome by the community. It is a day of jubilation and relief, a great day for the LGBTI people,’ Neil Falzon, director of the human rights charity Aditus, told Gay Star News.
‘Finally, with this bill, gay couples will have the legal enjoyment they deserve.
‘It’s a great moment for the community, it’s a great moment for all of the NGOs who have been fighting for this for years.
‘It’s a great moment for human rights in Malta.’
The bill will give gay couples exactly the same legal rights as straight couples have with marriage.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has described the change as a very important moment for Malta.
He said: ‘This is the essence of equality, the apex of European values.
‘It also shows that with political will, even a conservative society can boldly transform itself.’