The equality commission in Malta has condemned recent statements “against the recognition of same-sex families” and said that it is the human right of same-sex couples to be given the right to adopt.

The National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE), has issued a statement in response to a revelation by the country’s Auxiliary Bishop who said that Pope Francis was “shocked” by plans to introduce adoption laws for same-sex couples to the country, urging the bishop to do more to speak out against the legislation.

The statement read: “The NCPE promotes the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and calls on the relevant authorities to ensure the right of persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity to hold and practice religious and non-religious beliefs.

“Government and relevant authorities should also ensure that the expression, practice and promotion of different opinions, convictions and beliefs with regard to issues of sexual orientation or gender identity are undertaken in a manner compatible with human rights.”

It went on to say that while the freedom of expression and opinion should be a right for everyone, the rights of others should also be respected.

“The NCPE believes that everyone has the right to found a family, including access to apply for adoption or assisted procreation, regardless of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. The NCPE encourages the government to take all necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to ensure that no family may be subjected to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.”

A bill to introduce civil unions for gay couples in Malta is currently at its second reading. It includes provisions to allow gay couples to adopt.

Malta’s Equality Minister Helena Dalli told a press conference last month that the Civil Unions Bill will recognise same-sex partnerships and give them the same rights and duties as married heterosexual couples – including the right to adopt children.

Bishop Scicluna, however in February stepped in to condemn a provocative letter written by zealous Catholic churchgoer Joe Zammit who claimed there can only be lust and not love between gay people.

Malta’s Catholic bishops last month expressed concern over the country’s proposed civil partnership bill, stating “Children should preferably be brought up by their parents, a man and a woman.”