On the occasion of Parliament’s sitting to approve the Civil Partnership Bill, which will bring the right for same-sex partners to formally establish legal unions, Felix Alvarez, Equality Rights Group founder and Chairman, has today released a statement to the media.

‘It’s taken almost 14 years since, in early September 2000, the then GGR (widened over the years to become a broad human rights organisation, Equality Rights Group) first demanded a series of ‘scandalous’ measures in Gibraltar to bring justice to the gay and lesbian community of Gibraltar. We demanded an equal age of consent and civil partnership, in addition to anti-discrimination measures to protect people against being treated differently both in employment and in the obtainment of services and goods. We later demanded a hate crime/speech provision to be introduced, too.

‘Most of these goals have today been reached. With civil partnership – justly extended to heterosexual partners – the most long-awaited and desired of these measures. And they have been reached because we were determined to campaign in a democratic, open manner. Without apology and without recourse to anything other than an open dialogue with society in general, and the political parties. It has been very difficult at times, but we never doubted the changes would eventually come, as we witnessed how support grew larger and wider as we counted the years.

‘For us, it is a source of much pride that this respect for open discussion and constitutional means has, with patience and determination, brought the fruits of much labour.

‘Yet, there is a way to go. Of that there is no doubt. Goods and services anti-discrimination provisions still await introduction and we trust they will be enacted before the current parliamentary term comes to a close. But, above all, there is a way to go because today we signal our continuing determination to care for the human and civil rights of all in this community who are still aggrieved by injustice. Caring cannot be limited to ourselves, but must extend to others. And we hope that this tangible proof that determination and fighting against injustice does, in the end, pay off will also inspire and strengthen others in independent civil society organisations to redouble their efforts. And for all of us to show solidarity with others across our population.

‘We heartily thank the Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, the Deputy Chief Minister, Joseph Garcia, and all the Cabinet of Ministers, whether GSLP or Liberals, for delivering on their electoral promise to do justice to the LGB (lesbian, gay, bisexual) community. Their support and commitment has been both apparent and welcome. We would also be remiss if we did not thank both the local and international media (television, radio, printed, online press and social media groups), whose role in bringing information to the people, and engaging the necessary social dialogue that has been necessary to bring change has been pivotal.’

‘Last but certainly not least, it is clear to us that the involvement and contributions of so many people across these many years in the work of this group’s Executive has enriched and brought uncountable strength to the development of this organisation. Some have contributed more, some less, but all contributions have made a crucial difference. Today ERG thanks and honours them,’ Mr Alvarez ended.