Gay marriage to be on new Malta government's agenda

AP , Saturday 24 Jun 2017

File Photo: Malta's President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca (AFP)

Malta's new government is pledging to push quickly for the legalization of gay marriage, the tiny EU nation's head of state said on Saturday.

President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca said the government's agenda includes introducing more civil rights in what had been long a socially conservative country.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat won a second straight term in June 3 elections.

When Parliament meets on Monday, the first bill on the agenda is for "equality in marriage" to give gay couples the possibility to marry.

Civil unions were introduced in Malta in 2014; divorce in the predominantly Catholic country was legalized in 2011.

Coleiro Preca said Muscat's government plans to build on his first term's economic successes, including the first budget surplus in three decades. Unemployment last month was registered at 4.1 percent.

She was giving a speech written by the government and traditionally delivered at the ceremonial opening of the new Parliament.

For the first time since 1966, there are more than two parties in Parliament. This legislature's members number 37 for the government and 30 for the opposition, which is made up of the Nationalist Party and the newly-formed Democratic Party.

For the last-half century, only the Labor and the Nationalist parties had lawmakers. But in the voting earlier this month, the Democratic Party elected two representatives, Marlene and Godfrey Farrugia, a couple in real life. Despite their same surname, a common one in the island nation, the two are unmarried.

In 2013, they had been elected for Labor. Their election this time marks the first time two candidates who represented a different party in one election has won under another banner in a subsequent ballot.

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