The Government’s ‘indecisive’ and ‘fidgety’ behaviour in progressing equal marriage runs the risk that it is more keen on satisfying ‘outdated bigotry’ than on making a clear determination in favour of social progress, the Equality Rights Group has said.
This follows the Government’s announcement last week that it will appoint a Ministerial Committee to consider responses to its Consultation on One Civil Marriage Law for All.
ERG Chairman, Felix Alvarez, said: “There is nothing extraordinary in Government engaging in consultations on Equal Marriage, especially as this was an approach for which it received a clear mandate at the last Elections and for which it gave a fixed June 2016 timeline.”
The ERG said it therefore urges the LGBT community, its friends and supporters everywhere to exercise restraint in their responses at this time.
“Our energy and focus must be reserved for further down the line when an unequivocal response may need to be given.”
ERG stressed that it has never and will never hesitate to fully and robustly defend the human rights of the community at a time and in a manner that is fully just, measured, reasonable and appropriate.
“However, what is extraordinary,’ Mr Alvarez went on to say, ‘is Government’s indecisive and fidgety behaviour, which runs the risk of creating the impression in both the LGBT and wider community that they, as a Government which initially both pledged its commitment to progress and established an Equality Ministry for the first time in our history, are more keen on properly satisfying outdated bigotry than on making a clear determination in favour of social progress.”
“The Chief Minister is, of course, aware that this issue is controversial among some sectors of the Community and, as a responsible head of Government, rightfully wishes his Cabinet to give careful and respectful consideration to all sides of the questions involved.”
And that is precisely why deadlines have been extended and almost 3,500 written consultations elicited, with over 63% of those consultations supporting Equal Marriage, the ERG said.
“Gibraltar’s views could not be clearer, and this Community is right to be baffled by Government’s handling of this matter,” the ERG said.
The Group said it was also certain that the Government is aware of a number of other issues which have also raised much controversy in this community.
“Respectful of the community’s views, will the Chief Minister also be holding open and protracted Consultation on those matters, or will only issues related to the LGBT community be the subject to democratic concern? If so, why?” the Group asks.
“Based on the Alliance’s Manifesto commitments, it is questionable whether the mandate it obtained on this point at the last Elections stretched the public’s credulity this far.”
“It is even more questionable whether, after so much public debate and dialogue, any stone remains unturned for a Ministerial Committee to now sit and ponder over.”
The ERG added that the Government must consider the “extraordinary development” of Gibraltar as a society represented by the fact that the GSD in Parliament, “so long antagonistic to advancement of LGBT rights”, is now already publicly pledged to Equal Marriage.
Whilst an Alliance Government which promised change for a new society may be falling short of expectations for social advancement and is, as ERG regrettably predicted, turning a ‘consultation process’ into a full-blown Referendum by any other name, the Group said.
“Indeed, in view of various about-turns along the way, the question is more than begged: is a formal Referendum precisely where Mr Picardo is still leading?”
The ERG said it has worked and cooperated with the GSLP/Liberals and the Chief Minister positively and fruitfully over many years so as to deliver progress on various fronts – a relationship which it is committed to continue building.
“It is unfortunate, however, to see the early credit accumulated by this Government reach the point where it risks souring into disillusionment and disappointment among sectors of the Community which had deposited their trust and faith in its promise of a better day for all,” the ERG said.