There have been celebrations across Malta over its decision to legalise same-sex marriage.

It follows Prime Minister Joseph Muscat’s vow to reinforce equality on the once staunchly conservative and Roman Catholic Mediterranean island.

“This is an historic vote. It shows that our democracy and our society are maturing…it’s a society where we can all say we are equal,” said Muscat, who won a second term in office on June 3. During his campaign he pledged to make parliament debate this law first.

The new law, (which drew cross-party support,) removes words such as “husband”, “wife”, “mother” and “father” from the Marriage Act and replaces them with the gender-neutral “spouse” and “parent who gave birth” and “parent who did not give birth”.

Opposition Nationalist Party leader Simon Busutti said he backed the law because society was changing and because it did not alter anything from the civil partnerships law which gave civil partners the same rights as married couples. In the end, only one opposition MP voted against the bill, while 66 lawmakers supported it.

Malta is the 24th country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage with the move coming just two weeks after Germany’s parliament adopted a similar measure.