Maltese say ‘yes’ to legalising divorce

VOTERS in the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Mediterranean state of Malta have voted in favor of legalizing divorce, Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi announced Sunday after a weekend referendum.

Gonzi, who campaigned against the introduction of divorce in the last European country where it is illegal, said it was now up the Mediterranean archipelago’s parliament to legalize the dissolution of marriage.

“This is not the result that I wished for, but the will of the people has to be respected and parliament should enact a law for the introduction of divorce,” the conservative prime minister said.

Malta is one of only two countries in the world — the Philippines is the other — that bans divorce. Chile was the last country to legalize divorce in 2004 after overwhelming public pressure.

Saturday’s non-binding referendum asked the island’s 306,000 mainly Roman Catholic voters whether the parliament should introduce a new law that would allow couples to obtain a divorce after four years of separation.

Legal separation is widespread in the European Union’s smallest member state, but there were many legal obstacles to remarrying.

“The ‘yes’ vote has won and we urge parliamentarians to vote a bill for the introduction of divorce,” said lawyer Deborah Schembri, who led the “yes” campaign.

With ballots still being counted and an official result not expected until later Sunday, Schembri said the “yes” camp had won around 54 percent of the vote based on a sample from different constituencies.

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