Malta: Catholic Malta embraces gay marriage

Staunchly Catholic Malta only introduced divorce following a referendum in 2011, to the dismay of many in authority.

Six years later, it ranks top in Europe for gay rights, it was the first country to ban gay conversion therapy - and it's about to legalise same-sex marriage.

"Malta wants to keep leading on LGBT issues and civil liberties, to serve as a model for the rest of the world," Prime Minister Joseph Muscat told the BBC.

Fresh from a resounding electoral victory, Mr Muscat put forward the Marriage Equality Bill as the first law to be discussed in parliament.

Aware of the potential backlash, centre-right Nationalist Party leader Simon Busuttil killed off speculation that the conservative faction within his party was against gay marriage. He insisted the opposition would support the new law.

It is not a standalone law, but consists of changes to the Marriage Act and several other laws.

Among the most contentious changes, it scraps references to "husband", "wife", "mother" and "father", preferring gender-neutral terms. It also gives gay couples equal rights to adopt children.

Marriage will be put on an equal footing for everyone, removing the notion that there is a "first-class" union for husband and wife and a "second-class" version for the rest, according to Mr Muscat. Read more via BBC