by Elaine Attard
The Drachma parents’ support group yesterday urged fellow parents of gay people to show solidarity with their sons and daughters instead of driving their children to suicide. Spokesmen for the Drachma group spoke to The Malta Independent on Sunday at the Gay Pride march in Valletta yesterday.
Gay people suffer a great deal, especially because they fear that their family will reject them, explained one parent. “We encourage other parents of gay people to love their children with great compassion and not throw them out of their home. When a gay person decides to ‘come out of the closet’ it is an opportunity for the family to unite and show that love is overpowering. Gay people do not need their parents’ sympathy, they need support to stand up for their rights.”
“We are committed to encourage… LGBT people and their families in an effort to create more awareness of the difficulties faced because of the stigma society unfortunately attaches to those with a different sexual orientation,” states the group’s website. The parents’ group was established in April 2008 and welcomes any parents who need its help.
Although the Drachma parents’ support group is a Christian organisation, its members believe that the Church’s stand on matters relating to their children’s sexuality creates a need for them to come together and decide their own response, as parents of LGBT children. “We believe that there may be an opportunity for the Church to grow in this area also and we are perhaps in the best position to offer our discerned reflections and act as intermediaries with the local ecclesiastical authorities, to ensure that LGBT people feel embraced by the Church,” says the website.
The Gay Pride march, which was attended by around 150 people, was organised by the Malta Gay Rights Movement. It was characterised by gay people and their friends holding bunches of colourful balloons and blowing noisy whistles. Some held placards with slogans such as “I really shouldn’t need to be here”, “Attitudes are the real disability”, “God is an equal opportunities lover”. One particularly large banner proclaimed “Civil rights? = Gay Rights!”. The march went from City Gate, along Republic Street, St John’s Street, Merchants Street and South Street. A small stage was erected in front of the Social Policy Ministry and statements were read out by various political parties and NGO spokesmen. Representatives from the political parties attended. David Agius and Karl Gouder represented the Nationalist Party, Owen Bonnici and Evarist Bartolo represented the Labour Party while Alternattiva Demokratika chairman Michael Briguglio and Yvonne Ebejer Arqueros represented the Green Party. German MEP Holger Krahmer, who is a member of the Alliance of the Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), also took part.
Mr Krahmer said in a short speech that the rights of LGBT people were important for him and for society. He pointed out that homosexual people should be treated the same as straight people and should also have the right to be married. He said he look forward to the day when homosexuality is regarded as normal and wondered when homosexual couples would be seen as responsible and trusted and with equal rights to a traditional marriage. “Discrimination and rejection of other individual lifestyles starts in the heads of people and cannot simply be overcome by some anti-discrimination law. Tolerance and the ability for open discussion are necessary to abandon prejudices. Play your part and live in tolerance,” he continued.
Meanwhile, this year’s Gay Pride march marks a number of achievements for the local LGBT community. MGRM are celebrating the Social Policy Ministry’s announcement that the remits of the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality will be extended to cater for sexual orientation discrimination. Earlier on this year, MGRM hosted the ILGA-Europe conference, which saw some 400 international delegates discussing LGBT issues in Malta. Discussions on same-sex partnerships have been initiated, even though there are as yet no concrete solutions to the various points of view regarding same-sex partnerships and cohabitation legislation.
PL spokesman Owen Bonnici reiterated that the acknowledgment of civil partnerships is the first step towards other civil rights. With everybody cooperating, Malta should enjoy the same civil rights as in the rest of Europe, he said. PN whip David Agius, was booed by the crowd when he spoke about the cohabitation law that will be discussed in Parliament soon. He pointed out that discrimination is unacceptable at any level and that the PN is committed to ensuring that everyone enjoys the same opportunities. Green parties are the most ardent supporters of LGBT NGOs, said AD chairman Michael Briguglio. “In Malta, even though homosexuality was decriminalised in the 1970s and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation at work was made illegal following Malta’s EU accession, people with an LGBT identity are being discriminated against in various other areas, most notably when it comes to family policy. The LGBT community can rest assured of AD’s support. Unlike other political parties, we do not say one thing to one audience and another thing to another audience,” he said.