Malta’s justice minister Chris Said tabled a motion in the country’s parliament which recognises rights for unmarried couples both gay and straight, reported the daily Malta Today.
The bill was a 1998 electoral pledge by the Nationalist Party currently ruling Malta.
The motion for a first reading was presented to the clerk of the Maltese parliament on Tuesday evening (28 June), ahead of the start of a week-long gay pride celebration by the Malta Gay Rights Movement which starts this Saturday.
The Cabinet will be discussing the final drafting of the bill during the week, and be discussed by the Nationalist Party during the following week.
The law is expected to provide civil rights for unmarried couples recognized by law providing pending of long-term relationship.
If the bill manages to become law, same-sex couples will be recognized by the law. A policy document by the Nationalist Party declares the state ‘must legislate wherever necessary to establish the rights and responsibilities of such relationships for both heterosexuals and homosexuals.'
The proposed bill falls short of the opposition Maltese labour party's electoral pledge to legislate same-sex civil partnerships, which is demanded by the Maltase Gay Rights Movement.
The Catholic Church, which has a strong following in the country, is expected to oppose this bill. Pope Benedict XVI recently stated that any non-strict heterosexual religious definition of the family ‘threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself.’
Sources in Malta state the the bill is likely to pass into law given that the opposition Labour party supports gay civil marriage.