The Maltese Director of Public Registry is continuing to resist the release of marriage banns for a transsexual woman and her male partner.

Mr Justice Gino Camilleri ordered the director, Anthony Geraldi, to issue the banns on 12th February, on the grounds that the union between the transsexual and her partner did not conflict with any part of the Marriage Act, as she has now become a woman.

But a week later, Geraldi requested a reversal of the court decree, claiming that the change in the Act of Birth of the transsexual that allows a change of name and gender was only to protect her privacy.

This, he believes, does not mean that she can now be considered a woman in legal terms as her surgery was cosmetic.

On 1st March the transsexual’s lawyers insisted that they arrange an appointment for their client to apply for the banns to be issued, forcing the registry to set a date for 7th March.

Geraldi then filed an urgent application, requesting authorisation not to issue the banns until the original application was decided on.

He said that if this application forced him to issue the banns, the requests made in the original application would be “irremediably prejudiced,” according to TimesOfMalta.com.

Mr. Justice Micallef ruled that the application would be upheld and the marriage banns were not to be issued for the next 40 days to ensure that the interests of both the transsexual and Geraldi are not compromised.

Geraldi’s resistance to the marriage is not without popular support. Only 18% of the Maltese population support gay marriage, a December Eurobarometer survey found, and there is significant prejudice against the LGBT community.

In parliament too there is debate over the issue. In reply to a parliamentary question on 26th February, Home Affairs Minister Tonio Borg told Nationalist MP Jason Azzopardi that he believes there is no doubt that the Marriage Act was clear that a marriage should take place between a man and a woman.

Malta is one of the most socially conservative countries in the EU.

98% of the population are Roman Catholics, and although homosexuality is legal, there remains significant prejudice.

The Mediterranean island, a British colony until 1964, has around 400,000 inhabitants and is the smallest EU state in terms of both size and population.

In 2000 the government were criticised by gay rights groups for openly homophobic statements criticising EU proposals to treat gay people equally.