Civil Partnership: Sad Picture Caused in The Parliament by the Usual MP’s
PRESS RELEASE 26/06/2015
The debate on the Civil Partnership Bill continued on Wednesday 24th and Thursday 25th of June in the Cyprus Parliament, when participants witnessed situations reminiscent of past decades. The joint meetings of the Parliamentary Committees of Internal and Legal Affairs have already reached four in number while a fifth meeting has now been scheduled for the 1st of July. It should be noted that the positions of numerous organisations and other institutions, called to attend the meetings, were also heard last year during a two-month long public consultation, following an invitation by the Ministry of Interiors. The Bill has also been discussed for a year in a cross-party commission in which representatives of all parliamentary parties took part.
During Wednesday's meeting, AKEL MP, Panikos Stavrianos, asked the attending organisations and bodies to explain whether their support towards the Civil Partnership Bill expressed during the previous week, came following an open consultation of the organisations with all their members or if it was a decision taken solely among the members of their Boards! Mr. Staviranos even asked from Accept-LGBT Cyprus to forward the organisation’s Constitution to the MP’s for a review!
The Chairman of the Legal Parliamentary Committee, Mr Sotiris Sampson (DISY), responded that the way organisations take decisions is of no concern to the House while following the protests of Accept’s representative questioning the need to forward the organisation’s Constitution, Mr Sampson intervened saying that the organisation did not need to apologise to any Member for anything and asked Mr. Stavrianos what exactly was the reason for this request before the latter withdraw the issue.
DISY MP, Dr. Kyriakos Hatzigiannis in an apparent attempt to cause further delay to the Bill, asked all attending Ministries to send a “study of social and economic effect” that may arise from the application of the Bill! The representative of the Cyprus Atheists, commenting on this request, noted that the Civil Partnership concerns human rights and as such it is not dependent on any real or perceived impact on the society or the economy. He went on to wonder what the State would do if, by the same logic, there was research saying that it would be cheaper to kill criminals rather than jail them.
Answering questions by MPs Mr. Stavrianou and Mr. Hadjigiannis regarding possible 'psychosomatic' impact to children adopted by same-sex couples, the Pancyprian Association of Psychologists and the Association of Psychologists of Cyprus, made it clear that what is evaluated in adoption cases is the individual's ability to assume the role of the parent, and any other criterion would be discriminatory. The Sociological Association undertook to send to MP’s scientific research, clarifying that there aren’t any additional concerns regarding the mental health of children adopted by same-sex couples, compared with children adopted by heterosexual couples. In his intervention, the President of the Commission of Legal Affairs, Mr. Sampson, made his own disagreement clear, regarding the position of Mr. Stavrianou, saying that he doesn’t regard a homosexual couple as worse parents than a heterosexual couple from the outset, especially given that in the recent abuse cases that surfaced lately, primarily heterosexuals where involved.
AKEL MP, Ms Irene Charalambidou, commented on the position expressed in the previous meeting regarding the possible increase in divorces, following the introduction of the Civil Partnership, and consequently the corrosion of the institution of family and the social fabric, commenting that this cannot be correct since the divorce rate is already very high.
The meeting continued on Thursday with a debate over the Bill articles. During the discussion, certain members, in their attempt to cause delays and turmoil, interrupted with shouting bringing to the table issues that had already been discussed and answered.
In particular, the discussion started with a reference to the name of the Bill, for which reservations were put forward not only by Accept but also from the Legal Service, the Cyprus Bar Association and others. Mr. Stavrianos (AKEL) requested for the Bill to be returned to the Ministry and the Legal Service since with the change of the name its philosophy would also change thus more discussion would be needed. The co-chairs Mr. Samson and Mr. Lamaris emphasised that the name of the bill is not what defines its philosophy, but the opposite, giving the floor to officers of the Ministry of Interiors who stressed that there is no need for the Bill to return to the Ministry as it has the proper philosophy that the Ministry itself wanted it to have. They confirmed that the aim of the Ministry is the regulation of the relations of couples regardless of gender and without discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, both due to social justice, but also for the sake of human rights. That was also supported by the civil society.
DISY MP, Mr Tellis Misos, unleashed severe accusations of expediency and sketchiness in the passage of the Bill and an effort to summarily pass it through parliament after it appeared “that some MP’s were attending secretive Ministry meetings” without consulting the parties. On this, Mr. Lamaris replied stressing that “nothing was done secretly” and that the Bill began to be discussed by the previous government leaving spikes that others were responsible for an effort to stop it from coming to the Parliament. He underlined that the parties had sent deputy Members to the Ministry to discuss the Bill, and was beside the point if DISY chose to send an MP other than Mr. Misos. At this point EDEK MP, Roulla Mavronikola, intervened noting that all parties officially took part in the discussions in the cross-party committee that was set up to discuss the Bill and stressed that DISY was the only party that had two MPs representing it in the committee. Finally she reminded everyone that the cross-party committee was in direct talks with the Ministry for a year and there has been enough preparation for the Bill since.
Mr Misos and Mr Andreas Themistocleous (DISY) then, shouting, tried to force the officer of the Legal Service to indicate that the Civil Partnership essentially equates to marriage. She explained that the Bill is in the spirit requested by the Interior Ministry and by extension, the Government itself.
At this point, Accept-LGBT Cyprus welcomes the attitude maintained by representatives of the various Ministries particularly that of the Ministry of Interiors, who, on behalf of the Government, repeatedly made the philosophy of the Bill clear to all.
Mr. Misos then wrangled with DISI MP Mr Nikos Tornaritis, who, as the party spokesman, represented the official DISY position confirming that the party is in favour of the Civil Partnership, something that led Mr. Misos to withdraw from the room in protest for quite some time.
DISY MP, Mr. Rikkos Mappouridis, tried to pass on the message that same-sex couples should not be considered a family in the eyes of the law, disregarding the relevant decision of the European Court of Human Rights, requesting deletion of the paragraph of the Bill that explicitly says people who enter the Civil Partnership are considered spouses for all laws of the Republic. The intervention of Mr. Mappouridis led to further discussions and forced the Chairman of the Committee of Internal Affairs, Mr Lamaris, to ask all participants to leave and only MP’s to remain in the room.
Accept-LGBT Cyprus considers it regrettable that the few Members who oppose the Bill due to personal ideals, do not accept the obvious, which is non-negotiable human rights of all citizens. At the same time, it notes the contradiction of the situation, where the Government adopts a clear line in favour of regulating the relations of couples irrespective of sex, as defined by the Ministry of Interiors in the proposed bill, but at the same time the ruling party itself tolerates some of its members behaving and offending others in this way. The President of DISY Mr. Averof Neophytou himself, however, made it clear during an intervention on the matter in the afternoon of the same day, that the party is in favour of Civil Partnership and at the same time party MPs have the right to voice their personal views on the issue, without those reflecting the official position of DISY.
The organization, finally, considers it completely counter-constructive, that while MPs themselves called a multitude of organisations and institutions to advise them regarding the attitude of society, they are now ignoring their positions as they were overall positive, with the notable exception that of the Church of Cyprus. The expectations by some MPs, that society would vindicate them, in the end faltered them in the most unequivocal manner. In spite of this they still insist on shouting and arguing offending our intelligence. A typical example is the case of Mr Themistokleous, who requested the intervention of the Commissioner for Rights of the Children, Mrs Leda Koursoumba, but then chose to completely ignore her position as it was bringing down his own views.
Accept is convinced that the Chairmen of the Parliamentary Committees for Legal Affairs, Mr. Sampson, and Internal Affairs, Mr. Lamaris, will not allow the continuation of a situation that confirms that the efforts of some MPs is to keep the issue open indefinitely. It believes the Chairmen will manage to complete the discussion for each article during the next meeting so as to finally allow the Bill to reach the Plenary of the House of Parliament for approval, before the summer recess of the House.
Accept – LGBT Cyprus