Meet the only person in Malta who voted against equal marriage
In most countries, people who vote against equal marriage have some company.
When the UK voted on equal marriage, 170 MPs voted against. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel joined 225 members of the Bundestag in voting against. In France, 229 MPs were opposed.
But in Malta, the latest country to approve same-sex marriage, the vote was nearly unaninmous.
The small island nation this week embraced equality, and 66 of the country’s 67 Members of Parliament voted in favour.
All except Edwin Vassallo.
Mr Vassallo, a member of the conservative Nationalist Party, ignored his own party’s whip to cast his vote against the legislation.
Explaining his vote, Mr Vassallo said he could not set aside his religious beliefs.
Speaking to the Malta Independent, he took exception to parts of the bill that modernise the country’s legal system, removing gendered terms like ‘husband and wife’.
He said: “[It] completely removes the concept of the nuclear family, mother, father, son and daughter. This was never promised in the election manifesto and it is why I voted against the bill after I had asked for a free vote, which was denied.”
He added: “I would be dishonest to myself and to the people I represent if I voted in favour. I believe that it is a fundamental human right to express what you believe in.
“I exercised that right against the will of the party and stood up to be counted.
He added: “It is a dishonest law that says one thing when its contents say something else. It is an exercise in deception that starts tampering with laws that effect with the right to life.”
The lawmaker claimed the law was laying the groundwork to legalise “surrogacy and sperm donation”.
He added: “I will never stop defending my beliefs. I will do it with prudence, as I was taught as a Christian to respect authority, but I want authority to also respect me.
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“What is happening is an attack on fundamental human rights, not those of a Christian, but those of a person.”
Under Muscat’s leadership, the traditionally-conservative Catholic island nation become one of the most progressive in Europe for LGBT people.
Malta has outlawed ‘gay cure’ therapy and passed progressive reforms for transgender and intersex people.
The PM has urged other Commonwealth countries to follow Malta’s example and throw out their archaic Colonial-era anti-LGBT laws.
Speaking about the need for tolerance at a Commonwealth event, Mr Muscat said: “I want to single out the respect for LGBTIQ persons, the lack of it.
“The remarkable number of our countries [with anti-LGBT laws] is, arguably, a considerable blot on our family of nations’ standing.
“I had conversations and am aware that there are leaders who know that things must change, but are wary of how society will react to their first move.”