In Spain, after a dictatorship that persecuted homosexuals, gays and lesbians can now marry legally.
By Audrey Rodriguez
SANTANDER-In 2005, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and Spanish Parliament signed the bill legalizing marriage regardless of the couple’s genders, making Spain only the third European country, after the Netherlands and Belgium, to allow gays to marry
Considering the Catholic Church’s historical influence in the country and because of the terror homosexuals suffered during the Spanish Civil War and through to the end of the Gen. Francisco Franco regime, the gay marriage bill was a success in the eyes of many social liberals; nevertheless, lingering opposition still persists today, especially on the legitimacy of same sex partners adopting and parenting. This is the reason why gay andlesbian activists in Spain are continuing to promote gay marriage and overcome historical biases, as well as the opposition.
As individuals today living with the knowledge of the fear that gays suffered during the Spanish Civil War, when homosexuals were forced into hiding and persecuted when caught, Perla Rosental and Regino Mateo are committed to changing attitudes as a human rights imperative.
The belong to the Asociación de Lesbianas y Gays de Cantabria (ALEGA), a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organization that promotes education about gay marriage. Rosental, 51, an Argentinian lesbian living in Santander, explained her personal choice not to marry, even though she supports same-sex couples being able to do so.
“Marriage is a right and a choice as well,” Rosental said.
Audrey Rodriguez interviews Perla Rosental
For gay activists throughout Spain, June 30, 2005,when the Spanish Parliament finally enacted legislation to include gays in the marriage law, their efforts paid off. One of their successes before this historic day was the enactment of anti-discrimination measures in 1995 recognizing the right of sexual orientation as a fundamental liberty. Prior to the national action, a shift was already under way from 1998 to 2005 at the regional level towards the enactment of same-sex partnership laws. They included progressive partnership recognitions in Catalonia in 1998 and Aragon in 1999. A third region, Navarra, also recognized the right of same sex couples to adopt.
These efforts enacted by politicians showed promise leading up to the gay marriage bill by the time it reached the Cortes in 2005. Public opinion polls showed that 55 to 65 percent of Spaniards supported gay marriage.
But not everyone was pleased with the bill. Only two weeks before the bill, known as Law 13/2005, was voted on, hundreds of thousands of conservative opposition members marched through downtown Madrid, saying it was an assault on the institution of marriage. The Catholic Church even deemed the government to be ‘anti-Catholic,’ and Cardinal Ricardo María Carles Gordó of Barcelona went so far as to say “that they [Spanish Parliament] had to obey the laws of the Nazi government before their own conscience." Even still, some people who disagreed with the bill agreed with allowing gay couples to marry but not to adopt. These concerns are what Rosental and Mateo have worked to address through ALEGA,encouraging assimilation of gay couples and families into the broader fabric of society. . Not everyone is comfortable with the idea of allowing same sex marriage or even acknowledging basic human rights, Rosental and Mateo said. And yet, Spain has achieved what other democratic nations, like the United States,have not
Mateo mentioned California´s Proposition 8, which was passed on Nov.4, 2008 and closed the window for same-sex marriages in the state.In addition to Spain, the United States lags behind democracies formerly ruled by dictatorships in Europe like Portugal, and in South America like Argentina, which have instituted gay marriage. In Europe, the seven countries that have legalized gay marriage--besides Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands and Belgium--include Sweden, Norway, and Iceland.
Rosental said that perhaps the reason for the United States’ stagnant position is because states’ rights are observed more closely than national rights. She figures that the many factions, opinions, and nationalities in one democratic society are causes for disagreement on this particular issue of gay marriage.
When Prime Minister RodrÍguez Zapatero addressed Parliament on June 30, 2005, he said: "Today, Spanish society is responding to a group of people who have been humiliated, whose rights have been ignored, their dignity offended, their identity denied and their freedom restricted," a statement which no doubt conjured images and grievances harkening back to the Spanish Civil War. It is a continuous struggle not only in Spain as Mateo suggested when asked if he had any last words. He responded chuckling, “Only that the next law passed in Texas be gay marriage.”
Listen to the original Spanish interview excerpt
Transcript of Spanish, Quote
Bueno, creo que como fue en todos los países en que hay la ley, siempre es un ejemplo.En este caso, España ha ido y ha trabajado y reinvindicando estos derechos y la ley de matrimonio, que muchos no han creído en esto y especialmente por lo que comentaba Regino, por España por ser un país más Católico. Y sin embargo fuimos escuchados y como creo que deben ser también escuchadas las necesidades de lo que le está sucediendo a la sociedad. Y si la sociedad reclama en su conjunto una cantidad de derechos, y en este caso también la del matrimonio, yo creo que los políticos y los países más desarollados y no desarrollados que pretenden y hablan sobre las igualdades y las libertades y vivir en democracia, deberían trabajar este tema. Y creo que en Estados Unidos, más allá de algunos estados independientes que tienen la ley; hay una comunidad muy, muy grande en todo el estado que tiene fuerza política también, como fue aquí cuando trabajamos para la ley. Y yo creo que Estados Unidos hará exactamente lo mismo. Primero, porque es una de las cosas que más son necesarias por un voto político, y porque creo que la fuerza homosexual en su conjunto hace a que la gente empiece a ver que está faltando esto.
English Translation of Quote
Well, I think that it is always an example, like how it was in all the countries where the law exists.I In this case, Spain has gone and has worked and has claimed these rights and the marriage law, which many had not believed in, especially given what Regino said earlier, for Spain being a more Catholic country. And still we were heard, and as I think it is necessary that what is happening to society should be heard as well. And if society as a whole demands certain rights like in this case, the marriage right, I think that the politicians and the more developed and less developed countries that hope to get ahead and talk about equality and liberties and what it’s like to live in a democracy should work on this topic. I think that in the United States, other than a few independent states that have the law, there is a very large community that has strength, a political force too, like here when we worked for the law.And I believe that the United States will do exactly the same. First, because it is one of the things that is most necessary for votes and because I think that the power of homosexuals as a group can make people begin to see that this is needed.