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In Malta Parliament votes to allow same-sex marriage

Malta's parliament voted Wednesday to allow same-sex couples to marry, three years after passing a law permitting civil partnerships in the overwhelmingly Catholic nation.

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A file photo shows people celebrating the approval of a civil unions bill in the Maltese capital on April 14, 2014 play

A file photo shows people celebrating the approval of a civil unions bill in the Maltese capital on April 14, 2014

(AFP/File)

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Malta's parliament voted Wednesday to allow same-sex couples to marry, three years after passing a law permitting civil partnerships in the overwhelmingly Catholic nation.

Lawmakers gave near-unanimous approval to the bill, which represents a major step for LBGT rights on the island, which only legalised divorce in 2011 and where abortion is outlawed.

Malta, the EU's smallest nation, becomes the bloc's 15th country to legalise same-sex unions.

The vote was one of Prime Minister Joseph Muscat's first actions following his election victory last month.

"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," he said after the text was passed.

The influential Catholic church was solidly opposed to the bill but gay rights activists on Wednesday hailed the result, rallying in downtown Valetta under the banner: "We've made history".

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