Malta legalizes same-sex marriage in 66-1 vote

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Lawmakers in Malta have voted overwhelmingly to legalize same-sex marriage, becoming the 26th country in the world to do so. Only one lawmaker in the predominantly Catholic country voted against the change.

The Marriage Equality Bill – which was introduced by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat – makes several changes to existing laws, including the Marriage Act where words such as husband, wife, mother, and father will be replaced with gender-neutral terms.

The bill’s approval was nearly unanimous, with only one lawmaker from the center-right Nationalist Party voting against the changes. The news was met with celebrations in the capital Valletta, where fireworks were set off and “We Made History” was projected onto the prime minister’s office.

The bill approved on Wednesday also drops the requirement that women adopt their husband’s last name.

“Marriage equality is now reality in Malta. Pledge fulfilled, future sealed,” the prime minister wrote on his Twitter account. Opposition leader Simon Busuttil, of the Nationalist Party, also welcomed the changes, saying its party was “on the right side of history.”

Malta, once staunchly conservative but still predominantly Roman Catholic, has adopted more progressive legislation in recent years. The Mediterranean island legalized divorce in 2011, introduced civil unions in 2014, and legalized adoption by same-sex couples in the same year.

Wednesday’s changes, when formally approved by the president, makes Malta the 26th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. It comes just 2 weeks after a similar vote in Germany and less than 2 months after Taiwan became the first place in Asia to recognize same-sex marriage.

Support for same-sex marriage has increased in many parts of the Western world since the Netherlands legalized such unions in 2001, though legal recognition remains limited or non-existent in many countries. A total of 26 countries have now legalized same-sex marriage, as have Taiwan and several states in Mexico.

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