The Mediterranean island nation of Malta is the latest European state to embrace relationship recognition for same-sex couples, as the Maltese Parliament approved a bill establishing civil unions, adoption rights, and antidiscrimination protections for LGBT Maltese Monday evening.
Monday's parliamentary vote featured 37 "aye" votes and 30 abstentions, according to the Times of Malta. Those lawmakers who abstained reportedly did so because they were unwilling to support the legislation's provision to grant adoption rights to same-sex couples. Opposition parliamentarians told the Times they supported civil unions, which are placed on the same legal footing as marriage, but were concerned about granting adoption rights to LGBT citizens.
Located in the Mediterranean Sea just south of Sicily, Malta is a member of the European Union, and a majority of its citizens are Roman Catholic, according to VisitMalta.com.
Moments after the legislation passed, a festive celebration broke out in the nation's capitol of Valletta. More than 1,000 Maltese cheered, hugged, and kissed in the city's Palace Square, as the palace itself was lit up by rainbow lights. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat joined the celebrants outside the palace, saying the government moved forward with the bill because its members believe in equality.
"[The government] was doing it for the minority, but also for the majority, which would live in a country which was more equal, liberal and European," said Muscat, according to the Times. "The opposition's amendments would have reduced equality, not strengthened it. One could not compromise with principles, and this law was about the basic principle of equality."
Watch the moment of victory in the video below from the Malta Independent.