Catholic Malta votes to legalise same-sex marriage

People celebrate after the Maltese parliament voted to legalise same-sex marriage on the Roman Catholic Mediterranean island, in Valletta, Malta Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Hundreds of people celebrated the change in the law

The overwhelmingly Catholic island of Malta has voted to legalise same-sex marriage.

Parliament agreed to amend Malta's marriage act, replacing words like "husband" and "wife" with the gender-neutral alternative "spouse".

It also replaced "mother" and "father" with "parent who gave birth" and "parent who did not give birth".

The change marks another major milestone for the island, which only introduced divorce in 2011.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat - who has made equality a top priority after being re-elected last month - said: "It's a historic vote. This shows that our democracy and society have reached a level of maturity and we can now say that we are all equal."

Despite opposition from the Catholic Church, only one of Malta's 67 parliamentarians voted against the amendment.

Opposition leader Simon Busuttil tweeted: "By voting in favour in tonight's vote on #MarriageEquality @PNmalta was on the right side of history."

Outside parliament, the change was celebrated by hundreds who gathered in a square outside the prime minister's office for a party, organised by the Malta Gay Rights Movement.

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