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Same-sex marriage (SSM)

Legalization in Spain

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Spain used to be a staunchly Roman Catholic country. The church had maintained close links with dictator General Francisco Franco until his death in 1975. Since then, the country has rapidly become more secular. In early 2004, a socialist party was voted into office. By late 2004, public opinion polls showed that almost half of Spanish adults almost never go to mass.

A law to legalize same-sex marriage was passed by parliament in mid-2005. This made Spain the fifth country in the world -- and the third in Europe -- where same-sex couples can marry. The others are the Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, and the state of Massachusetts in the United States

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Events, 2001 to now:

bullet 2001-SEP-26: The Spanish parliament rejected an opposition bill that would have given gay and lesbian couples similar rights as opposite-sex married couples. The ruling conservative Peoples' Party had an absolute majority of seats in parliament. 1
bullet 2004-APR: A socialist party took over control of Parliament after eight years of conservative rule. The new prime minister, Josť Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has promised to terminate the Roman Catholic Church's "undeniable advantages." He planed to convert Spain into a secular state with simplified divorce procedures, increased access to abortions, and SSM. 2
bullet 2004-JUN-30: Justice Minister Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar said that the Parliament may approve SSMs early in 2005. On 2004-JUN-29, legislators approved a non-binding resolution urging the Socialist government to make SSM legal. He said:

"It's a challenge that this government wants to undertake, to remove a border of inequality. It is a fair cause that doesn't offend anyone."

The Associated Press reported that:

"Pope John Paul II recently expressed concern about [Prime Minister ] Zapatero's ideas, fearing they might weaken family values in this predominantly Roman-Catholic country." 3

bullet 2004-OCT-01: The Spanish cabinet approved a bill for submission to parliament which would legalize SSM. The bill called for all couples -- both opposite-sex and same-sex -- to have identical rights, including the right to adopt children. The Spanish Bishops' Conference issued a statement criticizing saying the decision as:

"... wrong and unjust ... A married couple, producing and educating their children, contributes in an irreplaceable way to the growth and stability of society.... [A same-sex couple] could never have such characteristics....Marriage is essentially a heterosexual institution."

Same-sex couples do produce and educate their children, with the help of artificial insemination or adoption. However, the Catholic Church considers assisted reproduction to be immoral.

The bishops said that equal marriage risks "introducing a virus into society."

Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, a spokesperson for the Spanish cabinet, said that thousands of children live with homosexual parents and numerous studies had shown that they were no different than children brought up in heterosexual homes. She said:

"There is no proof that homosexual parents educate their children any worse. In adoption, the well-being of the children comes first, independent of the sexual orientation of the parents."

Gwenael Le Moing, spokesperson for the Christian Association of Gays and Lesbians, welcomed the decision by the cabinet. saying that the law would help the normalize homosexuality in society:

 "....although there was still a lot of work to do. It also leaves the church more and more isolated in its discriminatory position." 2

bullet 2005-APR-21: The Spanish Congress of Deputies, Spain's lower house, gave initial approval to a bill legalizing same-sex marriage. It adds the following sentence to the existing marriage law: "Marriage will have the same requirements and results when the two people entering into the contract are of the same sex or of different sexes." It easily passed by a vote of 183 to 136. There were six abstentions. It then went to the Senate for approval. 4
bullet 2005-MAY-02: Roman Catholic Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo leads the Pontifical Council for the Family at the Vatican. He said that the proposed law, along with the growth of cohabitation before marriage, was "...destroying, bit by bit, the institution of marriage." He described the adoption of children by same-sex couples as "moral violence" committed against children. He said:

"People say these children adopted by same-sex couples are very happy. Maybe, when they are one or two years old. But when they are able to think for themselves, when they grow up, what a tragedy when they have to say 'my parents are two men, or two women.' Their personality, their stability is put as risk." 5

bullet 2005-MAY-05: Spanish bishops condemned what they called this unjust, corrupting law. They declared that the union of two persons of the same sex cannot be considered marriage. They are distressed about the damage to children adopted into families led by same-sex spouses. They do not view the government's proposal as a valid law because they believe that it contradicts their concepts of reason and morality. They urge the laity to object to this unprecedented law, as being harmful to marriage, the family, young people, and educators. 6
bullet 2005-MAY: Instituto Opina, a polling agency, found that 62% of Spanish adults supported the bill legalizing gay marriage. 30% were opposed; 8% were unsure or did not respond. Surveys also found that the public is about evenly split on whether same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt children. 9
bullet 2005-JUN-18: Thousands of bishops, priests, nuns, conservative political leaders, and the general public protested against marriage equality. The demonstration was organized by a lay Catholic group, the Spanish Forum for the Family. Organizers estimated that 1.5 million attended; the media estimated 500,000. Deputy Socialist Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega accused the protesters of discrimination against homosexuals. She said that they wanted to withhold the rights that they enjoyed from other people. She said that the new law would : "...not oblige anyone to do anything they don't want to do." Earlier, Roman Catholic Cardinal Trujillo has asked municipal office personnel to refuse to perform same-sex marriages if they become legal. He said:

"They should exercise the same conscientious objection asked of doctors and nurses against a crime such as abortion. This is not a matter of choice: all Christians... must be prepared to pay the highest price, including the loss of a job."

One demonstrator, Agustin Cruz, 41, said:

"Marriage can only be between man and a woman. It's a divine and natural law. Marriage of homosexuals is a lie. You have to call things by their name. The first lie begins when you start calling queers 'gays.' They're queers, it's not an insult, it's the definition of that race of people."

Fr. Jose Ramon Velasco said:

"This demonstration is the people's response to the government's provocations. We're not against homosexuals but allowing them to marry degrades matrimony. And they shouldn't have the right to adopt because if those children turn out to be homosexual, who will be to blame, the government?"

He appears to be unaware that the vast majority of children of same-sex parents grow up to be heterosexuals.

Comparing the bill to the early activities of the Nazis in Germany during the early 1930s, he said:

"Back then the majority of people also backed Hitler just like the majority back this law. I'm serious; give it time and it will destroy the moral fiber of Spain and the West."

Public opinion polls continue to show that most Spanish adults support the bill by a large margin.  7,8

bullet 2005-JUN-23: The Spanish Senate rejected the bill to legalize SSM. Members from the Catalan Christian Democrat Party and the center-right Popular Party opposed the bill. However, unlike most other countries, the upper House's vote is not binding. The bill returned to the lower house for final approval. 7
bullet 2005-JUN-30: The Congress of Deputies voted 187 to 147, with four abstentions, to legalize SSM. The key phrase in the new law sates: "Matrimony shall have the same requirements and effects regardless of whether the persons involved are of the same or different sex." The law will come into effect as soon as it is published in government registry; this was expected sometime in the first half of July. The Popular Party may challenge the constitutionality of the law in the courts.

Reactions were mixed:
bullet Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said that the new law makes " immense change in the lives of thousands of citizens. We are not legislating, ladies and gentlemen, for remote, unknown people. We are expanding opportunities for the happiness of our neighbors, our work colleagues, our friends, our relatives."
bullet Mariano Rajoy, leader of the Popular Party said: "I think the prime minister has committed a grave act of irresponsibility."
bullet Several members from the opposition Popular Party shouted: "This is a disgrace."
bullet Beatriz Gimeno, a activist promoting equal rights for gays and lesbians said: "It is a historic day for the world's homosexuals. We have been fighting for many years. Now comes the hardest part, which is changing society's mentality."
bullet Pedro Almodovar, a gay film director commented: "I don't like marriage. I am not going to get married. But it is important for this to be called marriage so people know that it is the same thing for everyone."
bullet The Spanish Bishops Conference, a Roman Catholic body, stated: "Marriage, understood as the union of a man and a woman, is no longer provided for in our laws. It is necessary to oppose these unfair laws through all legitimate means." [Note: If properly translated form the original Spanish, this statement appears to be in error, because opposite-sex couples can still be married just as they have in the past.]
bullet 2005-JUN-30: The Spanish Catholic Bishops Conference issued a statement deploring the SSM legislation and calling for Spaniards to oppose the law." They wrote:

"Today the words 'husband' and 'wife' have been systematically eliminated from the Code, in such a way that marriage, insofar as union of a man and a woman, is no longer contemplated by our laws."

The bishops also expressed sorrow at a companion bill to implement no-fault divorce. The bishops wrote that the institution of marriage has lost:

"... its own note of legal stability [and is] reduced to a shallow contract that either of the parties may rescind in virtue of his or her mere will, three months after stipulating it. In this way, the Spanish laws that regulate marriage have become radically unjust....They do not recognize the anthropological and social reality of the union of a man and a woman in its specificity and in its irreplaceable value for the common good, concretely, for the personal fulfillment of the spouses and for the procreation and education of the children. Our laws have ceased, therefore, to adequately protect the rights of parents, of children and of educators. Moreover, by leaving in practice the continuity of the conjugal pact to the discretion of individual liberty, they also leave the marriage bond unprotected and open the legal path to the violation of the rights of the other spouse and of the children. It is necessary to oppose these unjust laws through all the legitimate means that the state of law places at the disposition of the citizens." 11

bullet 2005-JUL-06: The Supreme Court of Justice of Catalonia blocked the marriage of two gay men: one Spanish and the other from India. The judge's rationale was that India bans same-sex marriages, and there is an article in the civil code that foreign residents of Spain are bound by the laws of their home countries. This would seem to limit Spanish homosexuals to same-sex partners who are  residents of Spain, Holland and Belgium. This list includes Canada, as of JUL-20. 10

This makes Spain the third country to pass a bill legalizing SSM within its borders. The Netherlands were first; Belgium was second. The Canadian House of Commons approved a bill to legalize SSM on 2005-JUN-28 -- one day before the Spanish bill was passed. It was signed into law on JUL-20.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Spanish Parliament Rejects Gay Marriage," The Gay Financial Network, 2002-SEP-26, at:
  2. "Spain approves gay marriage bill," BBC News, 2005-OCT-01, at:
  3. "Gay Marriage To Be Legal In Spain In 2005," Associated Press, 2004-JUN-30, at:
  4. "Same-sex marriage bill passes in Spanish Congress of Deputies," Wikinews, 2005-APR-22, at:
  5. J. Grant Swank, Jr., "Vatican forging right ahead for morals: New pope no sluch," MensNewsDaily, 2005-MAY-02, at:
  6. "Objections of conscience to a radically unjust law that corrupts the institution of marriage," Executive Committee of the Spanish Episcopal conference, 2005-MAY-05. Written in Spanish, at"
  7. "Spanish Senate rejects gay union law," The Australian, 2005-JUN-23, at:
  8. "Spanish protest gay marriage,", 2005-JUN-18, at:
  9. Mar Roman, "Spain's lawmakers legalize gay marriage," Associated Press, 2005-JUN-30, at:
  10. David Shucosky, "New Spanish gay marriage law runs into judicial roadblock," Paper Chase Newsburst, Jurist Legal News & Research, 2005-JUL-06, at:
  11. "Spain OKs Same-Sex Marriage, and "Express Divorce. Bishops' Conference Calls for Opposition," Zenit News Service, 2005-JUN-30, at:

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Copyright © 2001 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2001-SEP-28
Latest update: 2007-JUN-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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