The leader of the Labour party in the Maltese House of Representatives has said his party would allow gay couples to have civil unions, a gender identity law for trans people, and that he would appoint a minister for civil rights and equality.

Joseph Muscat, leader of Malta’s Labour government, also promised to put in place a consultative council which would screen new laws before they were enacted in order to avoid LGBT discrimination, reports the Malta Star.

The Labour leader was addressing a meeting organised by LGBT Labour, and said that the country should now take the steps to give equal rights to LGBT people.

He said “We have waited too long to move ahead an give these persons their rights. We truly want Malta for all and want everyone to feel that Malta is theirs.”

Muscat went on to say that granting equal rights to LGBT people was not an issue of tolerance, but embracing that LGBT people deserve equal rights as everyone else.

He went on to say that a Labour government would allow the Employment Commission more responsibility, in order to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and would sign Protocol 12 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which prohibits discrimination.

Several LGBT people spoke at the event about their experiences of bullying and discrimination, and the need to change laws in Malta in order to protect, and accept LGBT people.

The Labour party decriminalised homosexuality in Malta forty years ago in 1973.

In November European ministers have approved Maltese Tonio Borg for the job of the EU’s top health official despite opposition by some Liberal and Green MEPs over the Maltese politician’s conservative views.

EU ministers approved Mr Borg’s nomination a week after a majority of MEPs backed him in a vote.

At the end of August, the Malta Gay Rights Movement expressed disappointment at a bill to regulate cohabiting couples, which had just been launched in the country.

Earlier in 2012, the Maltese parliament did extend its hate crime laws for the first time to protect citizens on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.