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ERG urges ‘compassionate action for a loving family’

Weeks away from the birth of their first child, Equality Rights Group (ERG), has written to both the Chief Minister and the Minister for Equality in support of a same-sex family. “We know there’s little time, but unfortunate delays have brought us to this situation,’ the group says. 

‘Essentially, this is a story of human caring and love. Love between two people in a stable and warm relationship; and love towards their soon-to-be born child.

‘This Government has a tremendous track record in advancing the rights of the LGB community,’ added Chair of the group, Felix Alvarez. ‘Just look at the list: hate crime and hate speech protections in 2013; civil partnership (including for heterosexual couples) in 2014, and equal civil marriage for all in 2016. And while the Executive do not decide judicial matters, it is also true that the change in social atmosphere these legislative moves brought about in Gibraltar will have positively contributed to the acceptance of same-sex adoption, as a number of families will attest.

‘These are undeniable facts. And despite and in the face of, at times, virulent anti-LGB voices, ERG campaigned successfully with the help of the wide community to end discrimination affecting this sector across a number of areas: for equality at work and an equal age of consent; for civil partnerships, equal marriage, adoption, and same-sex rights generally, the introduction and enjoyment of which have proved that the skies have not fallen down upon us as predicted by some. Quite the contrary, they have brought fairness and stability across our close-knit society. And yet there are areas of the law and social attitudes that still require attention simply because human rights signify progress, and form part of the evolving nature of our lives.

‘Currently, the Surrogacy Bill has been awaiting parliamentary approval for the past 18 months. As in the UK and other countries, it’s now time for it to become law. It makes an important difference to the lives of people otherwise unable to have children to lawfully obtain the treatment and the status required. ERG recognises Government’s initiative in formulating this Bill and now urges it to get the job done because, while the community has been patient and understanding for the past year and a half due to the burdens of Brexit and Covid-19, we are now advanced in our management of both circumstances. That is not to say complex and demanding attention is no longer necessary. No doubt it is. But we have to bring some emphasis back to social issues which have been on the backburner all this time, and which are hurting. Speaking to the people concerned, the pain and anxiety are only too obvious to us.

‘I am grateful for the assurances recently given to me by the Chief Minister that he will now be pushing for the resolution of this issue. In particular, because in about six weeks time, a child will be born and, as the law currently stands, the birth certificate will deprive it legally of a second parent.The proposed Surrogacy Bill does, however, provide for parental recognition of the non-biological partner to a civil partnership or marriage through their registration on the birth certificate.

‘ERG believes Government should now act compassionately and without further delay towards this and other loving families.

‘I have no doubt at all of the Chief Minister’s sincerity and commitment to ending the discrimination currently in place on this matter,’ adds Mr. Alvarez. ‘Nor of Government’s intentions to round off the raft of LGB anti-discrimination measures it instituted from 2011 onwards, and which constitute a badge of honour for social rights in this community. But we are not insensitive to the urgency of the post-Brexit and pandemic crises and its demands on our political resources.

‘To this end we have proposed that, if need be, a viable interim pathway for dealing with the pressing circumstances of the situation might be opened through a firm commitment, on the one hand, to a clear limited timeline for the Surrogacy Bill to enter into law and, on the other, to an equally firm pledge that retroactive effect will be given for couples who, due to no fault of their own, find themselves currently unable to legally register their joint parenthood over the birth of a child. This would not only be a fair way to proceed given the circumstances, but also in tune with the anti-discrimination determination the Executive has demonstrated from its election in 2011.

‘Let’s be clear: this isn’t just about the dignity of LGB parents alone. ERG strongly holds that it’s also about the expression of parental love towards a child, and its future dignity and safety. Because parenthood registration confers upon that child further protections should anything negative or untoward occur to the biological parent given that, as is usual, the second parent can provide a safeguard for the child’s ongoing physical and psychological welfare. That protection is alarmingly unavailable at the moment. We therefore reiterate our plea to Government: the Surrogacy Bill is nearly there. Let’s get it done; or let’s back your already strong equality intentions with firm pledges to retrospectivity and a date for approval and enforcement.’

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Our grateful thanks to ‘The Times‘ for the above image, taken from its article on same-sex parents