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Civil partnerships bill to be discussed behind closed doors

The Pride festival and parade on Saturday

By Constantinos Psillides

The first discussion of the civil partnership bill at parliament will be held behind closed doors, House Legal Affairs chairman Soteris Sampson said on Tuesday, adding that the only thing on the agenda is matters of procedure.

The bill is scheduled to be discussed on Thursday at a joint session of the House Legal Affairs and House Interior committees.

While it is usual that the relevant minister presents any bill approved by the Cabinet, as this one has been, Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos wasn’t invited.

While it has been reported that the committees will meet behind closed doors to minimise the risk of reactions from both MPs ranks and the general public, Sampson said people could still show up.

“What we mean by closed doors is that we won’t invite anyone to appear. Our goal is to look into matters of procedure,” he said.

Daily Politis reported that one of items on the agenda is whether a representative of the Church will be called to offer an opinion and whether he would do so on the same day as representatives of Accept-LGBTI, the gay-rights NGO.

“There was no such motion tabled. Of course, there will be a lot of MPs so one of them might put this forth. If that happens then we will deal with it then,” explained Sampson.

During the island’s second Pride parade on Saturday all parliamentary parties pledged their support for the bill. Speaking at the parade, Hasikos said the bill will address major problems faced by the LGBTI community.

Discussion of the bill comes only two weeks after a controversial bill to criminalise homophobia was passed. The bill was passed with 33 voting in favour, 6 MPs voting against and one abstention, Some MPs even walked out when it was time to vote so they wouldn’t have to vote on the bill.

Asked on whether MPs from other committees expressed an interest to take part in the discussion, Sampson said that he wasn’t notified by anyone but added that “any MP has the right to take part in the discussion should he/she wishes to do so.”

The bill has met the most resistance from ruling DISY. While party leader Averof Neophytou has repeatedly stated the party supports the bill – he was even at the Pride parade with fellow DISY MPs Stella Kyriakidou and Nicos Tornaritis – he has also made clear that he will not force any member of his party to vote against his conscience.

MPs Aristotelis Misos and Andreas Themistocleous were among those who voted against the bill, while three other DISY MPs weren’t present during the vote.

Themistocleous, from Limassol, has been especially vocal against both the homophobia bill and civil partnerships.

While the MP has not yet officially taken a stance on the bill, his comment leave little room for interpretation.

In an interview with daily Simerini on Sunday, Themistocleous said passing the bill would “set this kind of partnership as an example and promote it.”

The Limassol MP argues that the bill will initially undermine the institution of family, then shake it to the core and finally throw it to the ground.

“From there onwards, the collective wellbeing of the people –meaning our lifestyle, traditions and morality – will be gone for ever,” he said.

Meanwhile, two inmates of the Central Prison were given leave to take part in the Pride parade. Central Prison administrator Anna Aristotelous confirmed she gave permission to the two inmates, pointing that not only where they under guard but that she accompanied them.

The two men are being held on suspicion of burglary and drug-related charges.

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