A private member’s bill has been introduced in Malta in order to amend the country’s Constitution to increase protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Article 45 of the Maltese Constitution already protects against discrimination based on race and sex, among others, however the proposal by the Opposition, the Nationalist Party, would protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Mario de Marco, the deputy leader for parliamentary affairs introduced Proposal 99, as part of the party’s electoral programme.

He noted a study carried out last year which showed that 51% of LGBT people living in Malta felt harassed to discriminated, because of their sexual orientation. The EU average is 47%.

The Maltese Government should welcome the amendment, he said, as it would mean that no law could be discriminatory, reports the Times of Malta.

The bill was presented by Claudette Buttigieg, who said at the press conference that the law can make a huge difference to people’s lives, and that it would mean people could live in an open way without fear of discrimination.

The bill, drawn up by human rights lawyer Therese Comodini Cachia, ties to other initiatives which were taken by the party, which amended the law to include homophobia as a crime, and began the process to launch a gender identity act.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced yesterday, that gay couples should be able to enter civil unions by the end of 2013. Ms Buttigieg said that the Nationalist Party was never invited to participate in the decision of the committee which would be consulting on the issue.

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.