[JURIST] The Maltese Parliament [official website] passed new legislation [legislative materials] on Monday legalizing same-sex civil unions [press release, in Maltese], and providing such unions with the same rights as are afforded heterosexual marriages in the country. The bill also provides for the recognition of same-sex marriages legally performed abroad [Times of Malta report]. Notably, the law provides participants in a same-sex relationships the right to adopt [AFP report], making Malta the fifteenth country to legalize such adoptions. Along with this measure, the parliament also approved of a constitutional amendment [Malta Today report] Monday that added the words "sexual orientation" to Articles 32 and 45 of the Malta Constitution [text, PDF], which deal with freedoms and protection from discrimination, making it the first European country to have provisions specifically address gender identity protection.
Same-sex adoption rights [JURIST backgrounder] have generated controversy [JURIST op-ed] worldwide in recent years. In February, Russia issued a decree [JURIST report] banning same-sex couples or single people who reside in countries that legally allow same-sex marriage from adopting Russian children. In December, the EU Court of Justice [official website] ruled that in countries in which same-sex couples cannot legally marry, same-sex couples in a legal union are entitled to the same legal benefits as married couples [JURIST report], including adoption rights. That same week, the Supreme Court of the UK [official website] refused to review a ruling by the Northern Ireland High Court [official website] striking down a law permitting adoption only by heterosexual married couples or single individuals, effectively legalizing adoption by same-sex couples [JURIST report] in Northern Ireland. Last May, both Portugal and France ratified measures allowing adoption by same-sex couples.