Thursday, June 30, 2005

Spain legalises gay marriages

This morning the Spanish government finally passed the new law legalising same-sex marriages in Spain, just two days before the traditional annual "Gay pride" march is due to be held in Madrid. Parliament voted in favour of the new legislation by 187 votes in favour, 147 against and 4 abstentions.

One PP MP, Celia Villalobos, broke the party discipline code by voting in favour of the law - something which is almost unthought of within the strict confines of Popular Party norms. And the coordinator of the Gay and Lesbian section of the Popular Party later told the Spanish press waiting outside Congress that he intended to ask Madrid's charismatic PP mayor, Alberto Ruiz Gallardon (considered to be one of the party's moderates) to conduct the marriage ceremony between him and his partner this Summer. It is not known whether or not Ruiz Gallardon will agree to the request.

Spanish President José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said before the vote that "a small change in the wording (of the previous legislation) respresents a massive change to the lives of thousands of compatriots". Spain now joins Belgium, Holland and Canada as the fourth country to legalise gay marriages.

Rodriguez Zapatero made an unexpected speech before the vote, in which he underlined the fact that government support for this law did not imply a vote against traditional marriage or the family, a criticism which both the Spanish Catholic Church and Popular Party members have used in their joint campaign against the new legislation. Zapatero defended the legalization of same-sex marriages today before congress in the following terms: "we are not legislating for remote or strange people. Rather we are simply extending a new opportunity for happiness to our workmates, neighbours and friends, and we are making this country more decent in doing so.... Homosexuals are just a minority, but their victory today is a victory shared by everyone, because it is the victory of freedom".

The leader of the opposition's request for the right to reply to the improvised speech was denied by the Leader of the House, Manuel Marín, who said that according to the Rules of Congress, the Government is allowed to intervene in Congress at any time to defend its policies, but that this should not be seen as an excuse to reopen the debate.

The "small change" mentioned by Zapatero refers to the following sentence which has been added to article 44 of the Civil Code as a result of today's vote. "Marriage will have the same requirements and effects whether the couple are members of the same sex or of different sexes". The new law also includes a clause that contemplates the right of same-sex couples to adopt children, which means it goes beyond the gay rights laws in the Netherlands and Belgium.

According to a survey carried last year out by the CIS, 66 percent of Spaniards approve of gay marriages, but just 48 percent approve of the right of gays to adopt children.

Gay marriages in Spain

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