Beating the populist drum – Paula Cauchi

The Times of Malta editorial of March 26 continues to shift further to the right and increasingly sounds like a bigoted broken record vis-à-vis equality and civil liberties.

This year alone, the editor told us on three occasions that civil unions, the legislation on the right to apply for adoption by same-sex partners and last year’s marriage equality brought doom and gloom to Malta.

Reading through these editorials, one cannot but notice the hyperbolic language used on all three occasions. What’s worse is that they all expose the intention to portray equality in a bad light. The editor’s goal is clear: repeat the same mantra enough times until it finally sticks.

Just like he keeps going on with regard to abortion even though the minister and the government have repeatedly said that abortion will not be introduced, in any form.

So what is it that these editorials have been stating?

In the editor’s own words: “The government made a mockery of the institution of marriage and promised the gay lobby what cannot be, abortion appears to be a natural development in the growing list of so-called civil rights, which are not human rights at all” (January 24).

Two weeks later, readers were told that: “When this newspaper wrote that the government had made a mockery of the institution of marriage in view of the promises it made to the gay lobby, the newspaper was accused by the LGBTIQ Consultative Council of fomenting homophobia. This newspaper has a right to argue the government is promising what cannot be and then dismantling a fundamental pillar of society to achieve what it cannot” (February 6).

And again: “Gay unions, which led to gay marriage and gay adoptions, have undermined one of the pillars of society, the institution of marriage” (March 26).

Yet, the truth is that, contrary to the editor’s claim, Maltese citizens want more equality not less and that is something to celebrate. Indeed, the Labour Party’s position was clear in its 2013 and 2017 manifestos, both on LGBTIQ equality and women’s rights.

The 2013 manifesto clearly stated that the Labour Party wanted to introduce civil unions for same-sex couples and the party had stated its position in favour of equalising access to adoption publicly through a response to a questionnaire. All cards were on the table for everyone to see.

The recent out-of-context  dissemination of a highly-edited excerpt of Equality Minister Helena Dalli’s comments in New York – where the essence of her message was left on the cutting-room floor – do not undo what is black on white.

On the contrary, during the parliamentary debate on civil unions, the Nationalist Opposition did all that it could to force government to weaken the text and drop the provisions related to adoption.

They thought that they had a trump card when at committee stage they asked for Angela Abela’s opinion, as an eminent expert on family policy. Abela did indeed provide the requested exposé but not quite in line with the Nationalist Party’s expectations.

Instead, Abela stuck to international research and indicated that love and care were the more important characteristics of parenting while the parents’ sexual orientation had no bearing on child rearing.

It is noteworthy that when the Civil Unions Bill became law, Parliament amended the Constitution’s anti-discrimination article to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected characteristics with the support of both sides of the House.

The same happened with regard to the Gender Identity, Gender Expression and Sex Characteristics Act. All MPs supported the Marriage Equality Act with the exception of one. So the question to the Times of Malta editor is: did all of Parliament – bar one – agree to make a mockery out of marriage?

Aside from the political class, the Maltese public has also shown great maturity and openness on the subject and people from all walks of life have understood the need to ensure that our laws are equal for all. Indeed, by mid-2015, just a year after the introduction of civil unions, according to the Eurobarometer, 65 per cent were in favour of the opening up of marriage equality across all of the EU.

Surely, that percentage continued to grow now that marriage equality is the law of the land and the sky did not fall as a result. So, once again: is the editor telling us that the Maltese public too is making a mockery out of marriage?

Before another editorial on the subject appears, it may well be the time to ask the editor to come clean on the sort of Malta he would like to see. Should women’s rights be rolled back? Should they be sent back to the kitchens? Should recent advances in the field of LGBTIQ equality be quashed? Should the government divest of its duty to promote equality?

And if this is the sort of message the editor is indeed sending us, how is he different to the reactionary forces that democrats and liberals are fighting in the rest of the free world? For instance, how is the editor different from Marine Le Pen and other dark voices that are poisoning democracies across Europe when his rhetoric is indistinguishable from theirs?

Suffice it to quote Le Pen who had said that any law on same-sex marriage would “undermine the very foundations of our civilisation and the structures that protect family life”.

Any other comment is superfluous.

Paula Cauchi is communications coordinator at the Ministry for European Affairs and Equality.

Source : Times of Malta