Translated (mostly) by Google Translate:
Interview with PATRICK ATTARD / Maltese Politician (AD): "In Malta we need someone like Zapatero, who can stand up to the bullying of the Church"
Written by Nemo 28-04-2008
Patrick Attard, a 28-year old, has become the first gay candidate -"the first openly gay candidate”, he observes with a smile- to stand for a general election in the history of the Republic of Malta (the election was held just one day before the Spanish one, on March 8). He was with the Green Party Alternattiva Demokratika (AD), wich had a clearly pro-LGBT agenda. Dosmanzanas (Two Apples) has taken advantage of his recent stay in our country to interview him.
Dosmanzanas .- What motivated you to enter politics?
Patrick Attard .- In 'An Inconvenient Truth', Al Gore said: "If there is something you would like to change, write to Congress about it, if nothing changes run for Congress." In my country nobody talked about LGBT issues in the months leading up to elections, that was a big taboo, there was a huge vacuum in this regard… so I decided to try and move the agenda a bit forward.
Dm .- How did the election campaign progress?
P.A. - I was invited to speak on television and newspapers. After leaving television for the first time in a discussion program, the day after I ended up in the news, and people stopped me on the street to tell me well done. There were some gays who had lost hope in politics who felt inspired by me, and I think I managed to communicate a few ideas.
Dm .- Alternattiva Demokratika has been the third party in Maltese politics for many years, but the Maltese political system is very bipartisan and you did not obtain parliamentary representation. How do you assess your experience in these general elections?
P.A. - Well, at first I was disappointed at the low number of votes we got, despite being the only party that is clearly positioned in favour of LGBT rights… but I am happy to have been able to help a person who had attempted suicide and having managed to bring to light the plight of gays. In addition, in Malta we have a 'transferable' voting system, which allows us to mark next to the name of each candidate a number that expresses the order of preference of the voter, so if the candidate that I had marked with 1 does not get enough votes to be elected, my vote goes to the one I had marked with 2, and if this one does not get enough votes either, to the one to whom I had given a 3, and so on with the entire list… Well, I was impressed by the fact that over one third of those who voted for me only marked only the 1 next to my name in their ballots, and nothing next to those of the other candidates: that is, they thought that only I could represent them.
Dm .- What are prospects for the future, politically?
P.A. - In June, we have a party general meeting in which we can reflect on the past election and plan the future direction.
Dm .- I see that you speak the political language well…
P.A. – Yo mean that I give you vague answers, right? (laughs).
Dm .- Before you said that you feel happy to have been able to help a person who had attempted suicide. This topic of suicides of gays and lesbians is also high on your blog, along with the LGBT who have to go into exile in search of a place where they can develop their lives in a freer and fuller way… How serious are these problems in the Maltese society?
P.A. - I do not have figures, but I know that these problems exist. It is a fact that in the very devout Christian communities around the world, the incidence of suicide among gays is higher. In my blog I pasted a letter from a guy who tried to commit suicide and, fortunately, the doctors were able to save him. I also pasted a newspaper article of another gay guy who tried to kill himself repeatedly. Both texts are published in the Maltese press.
One week before the election I was in a gay disco and I thought that I could make a small speech, but the music was very loud and I didn’t want to spoil the atmosphere and the owners of the premises did not like the idea of letting politics in the club and at the end I dared not talk. Later I learned that a 23 year old guy who was there had committed suicide the next day: I could not help wondering if I could have helped him somehow, had I dared to speak at the club that night.
Dm .- What about the LGBT who go into exile?
P.A. - Yes, the press in Malta (the newspaper 'It-Torċa', 'The Torch') has also published two articles on this subject. In addition, there is a group that is called 'Malta Gay Exiles', which tries to bring together people who have lived this experience. And many of the hits of my blog come from outside Malta, which, bearing in mind that my blog is mostly in Maltese, suggests that these hits are from Maltese people who are scattered throughout the world.
Dm .- Malta joined the European Union in 2004 and this year has entered the euro… Do you think that these changes will help the LGBT cause in the Maltese islands?
P.A. - Yes, of course. First, there is the issue of discrimination in the workplace on grounds of sexual orientation: The European Commission forced us to prohibit this type of discrimination by law in Malta, even though our Conservative government did not want to. And thanks to being part of the EU, the euro and the Schengen Treaty, it will be easier for people to travel more and have a more open mind –let us hope that people come to Malta from all over Europe and that we travel to other European countries too, and most importantly, let us hope that it will enhance our degree of tolerance toward people who are different.
Dm .- What is your opinion on Spain and on the changes that have recently been implemented in our country regarding LGBT rights?
P.A. - I think that in Malta we need someone like Zapatero, who is able to confront the arrogance and intimidation of the Catholic Church. What I like about Spain is that the Catholics can go to pray in their churches, but people who are not religious have a place in society as well.
Dm .- How much influence do you think has the Catholic Church in Maltese society, and what you think about this situation?
P.A. - Well, in the last election the priests were telling people not to vote for AD during the Mass, since AD was in favour of divorce (which remains illegal in Malta) and gay partnerships. The Church does not want to deal with the harassment of gays in Catholic schools, and when there is a discussion on LGBT topics on television, the Church always sends someone to say that God loves the gays but hates 'the act'. Isn’t it more sinful for a Catholic woman that I know of to claim that, had she knew that her son was going to be gay, she would have preferred to abort (which, incidentally, is illegal in Malta)? I also know of a man, also a Catholic, who said that he would have preferred if his son had cancer than was gay.
Dm .- The wife of the former Spanish President, of Spain’s Conservative Party, expressed her opinion about the access of gay and lesbian couples to marriage with these words, which became famous in our country: “If you add two apples, then you get two apples. And if you add an apple and a pear, you can never get two apples, because the components are different. A man and a woman is one thing, which is marriage, and two men or two women will be another thing, a different thing.” What do you think about this reflection?
P.A. - What can I add to such words of wisdom? (laughs again).
Note: This argument with apples and pears is similar to the one in the Maltese media with electrical plugs and sockets.
That is what we need here.
by 29-04-2008 at 14:41 wow
I want to say that the origin of this interview with Patrick Attard is also dosmanzanas, and specifically, the column "Tolerance" I published here last April
I would like to thank Patrick Attard for granting me the interview, and the ‘bosses’ of dosmanzanas for posting it.
by Nemo 29-04-2008 at 19:31
On the blog of Patrick Attard, you can read the English version of "Tolerance"… along with your own comments (the latter in rather approximative English, it has to be said). You are now international and ‘interlingual’, too.
by Nemo 29-04-2008 at 19:37
Congratulations on your interview Nemo:) If I had known you were going to go international, maybe I would have posted some comment on "Tolerance" LOL.
You should now send the contribution to Zapatero: perhaps it’ll inspire him to finally take the separation of church and state seriously. It is about time.
by Rukaegos 29-04-2008 at 19:48
Great interview, Nemo. It was lucky that after publishing your column, Patrick Attard came to
I’m still moved by the fact that we have become a model country for gays and lesbians from other countries.
“Approximative English", you said? Why you are benevolent, Nemo. Machine translators should be banned. LOL
by Fer 29-04-2008 at 20:02
Thank you, Rukaegos, Fer (and wow too, for leaving his comment this morning).
Rukaegos: it would be a good thing if Zapatero decided to do -even more- honour to his fame beyond our borders, of being brave in front of cassock-wearing bullies… I wonder if they read dosmanzanas in the President’s palace.
Fer: the mentality prevailing in
by Nemo 29-04-2008 at 21:03
You can vote for the interview on Menéame.
by Fer 30-04-2008 at 00:15
Well, then send Zapatero to
by fanfatal 30-04-2008 at 00:22
I do not think Zapatero has stood up to the Church beyond the issue of same-sex marriage, here is a recent example.
by Armel 30-04-2008 at 00:45
True. Zapatero still has much to prove to many of us regarding the Church issue, but it is true that for foreign countries, he has achieved a dramatic effect. And so they see him as a point of reference.
by metabolic 30-04-2008 at 12:42
Well, it is obvious that in the field of secularism still much needs to be done in
Let us not forget that the spokesman for the Spanish Bishops' Conference said that that legal reform was nothing less than "the most serious thing which the Catholic Church has had to deal with in its two thousand years of history" (!) And that is why Bishops had to "act with all the consequences" against it. Let us not forget all the manoeuvres, all the demonstrations, all the catastrophic and vaguely threatening statements… and all this for years. So I think that what was adopted on that occasion was more than a mere "dramatic effect": it was a brave and determined move for equality, really standing up to the intimidation of a social sector (which gravitates around the Catholic hierarchy) which is as influential as it is fanatical and arrogant.
by Nemo 30-04-2008 at 14:28
For some the separation of Church and State is the same as the expulsion of religion from the State. The first thing is healthy secularism. The second, totalitarianism. For example, who are you to prevent a Catholic/Christian devotee to run for President, then win and legislate according to his/her own conscience? That is individual freedom, not meddling.
30-04-2008 by yo at 17:49
Provided they legislate according to their own conscience without attempting against oter peoples freedom of others or against the law…. What if the opposite happens, though? Would you the say that "the Catholic Church is being persecuted"?
by Odysseus the Ithacan 30-04-2008 at 18:19
Any ruler in principle, whether Catholic or Atheist or ‘Pastafarian’, can legislate "according to their own conscience." What they can not do in a liberal democracy, though, is to forbid citizens to act, as far as their private lives are concerned, according to their own conscience as well. Therefore, a devout Catholic who has won an election would not (or should not have) the right to ban divorce or abortion, or to exclude certain couples from marriage, on the basis of the gender of their members. Catholics have (and should have) the right not to marry someone of their own sex, not to get divorced, not to get an abortion… if that is what ‘their conscience’ dictates to them. But they do not have the right to forbid other people to do so, because other people have their own consciences too, different from the Catholics’ but equally valid.
All this, I repeat, within the framework of a liberal democracy. Of course I understand that things would be quite different in a theocracy.
by Nemo 30-04-2008 at 20:37
Actually I think that both you and Nemo have addressed the question from the wrong perspective. Of course, a Catholic can stand for election and if they win, they can do any office to which they have been elected.
But "legislate according to their own conscience" is not possible for a ruler, no matter whether they are Catholic or not. Firstly, because consciousness is individual, and a minister, the chairman of a government, an MP or whatever can not be in our system a tyrant or a dictator, who would be the only ones with the ability to legislate according to their will or their conscience. All legislation must be under the Constitution, in accordance with international treaties signed by the
That is, according to their conscience rulers may propose laws, but these laws will not be passed by their own conscience, but by a formal and objective procedure. But in addition, there would be many legal and constitutional limits to what they can legislate, limits they would not be able to skip under any circumstances.
That's because for better and for worse conscience and politics do not have too much in common. Max Weber proposed precisely to clarify this problem of two ethical models living together in society, each of which has its role. He called them "the ethics of responsibility", which corresponds to politicians in the public sphere, and "the ethics of conviction", each individual's own private sphere. Sometimes these two match, but not always.
You're right, of course, Rukaegos, although I think your comment and mine are not incompatible. The ruler’s conscience may inspire them this or that piece of legislation, but in a liberal democratic system they will have to comply with all those legal and formal limits that you explain in your comment, and which are there precisely to protect the rights of the people he rules over (including the right, which I mentioned in my previous comment, to follow one’s own path in personal life, according to one’s conscience and also, of course, to legal limits).