Spain could become 3rd country to allow gay marriage

Sinikka Tarvainen | October 01, 2004

Madrid — Spain is set to become one of the world's first countries to legalise homosexual marriage.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist government expects that from early next year, gays will be able to marry just like heterosexuals and adopt children.

Even if parliament modifies the government's plans, Spain is likely to become one of the world's most liberal countries with regard to homosexual unions.

The government was expected to approve draft legislation equating homosexual marriages with heterosexual ones on Friday.

Only the Netherlands has gone as far. Belgium allows gays to marry, but not to adopt children. Some Canadian provinces and the U.S. state of Massachusetts have also legalised homosexual marriage.

Germany and the Scandinavian countries grant gay couples wide- ranging rights, while others such as France have less liberal civil union laws.

Spain's current legislation describes marriage as a union between "a man and a woman", a formulation which the government intends to replace with "spouses".

The new law would grant gay married couples the same rights as heterosexuals in areas such as adoption, inheritance, pensions, divorce and the possibility of getting Spanish nationality after marrying a Spanish citizen.

More than 100,000 Spanish homosexual couples are waiting to get married, according to news reports.

Gay marriage forms part of the "social revolution" attributed to Zapatero's five-month-old government, which has also tackled violence against women and would like to legalise euthanasia.

"Nobody thought the government would act so rapidly," admitted Beatriz Gimeno of the State Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals (Felgt).

The planned legislation implies a big change in Spain, where homosexuality was banned during the 1939-75 dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.

Some form of civil unions is in force in most of Spain's 17 autonomous regions, but there is no nationwide protection for homosexual couples.

The Catholic Church has campaigned against the government's plans, saying homosexual marriage threatens the foundations of society and the economic system.

Zaragoza archbishop Elias Yanes said the government's social policies made the church feel it was being "attacked head-on", while other critics have warned that gay marriage could split Spanish society.

Yet while 80 per cent of Spaniards see themselves as Catholics, a recent poll showed 70 per cent did not oppose gay marriage. The draft legislation says it is becoming increasingly accepted, "overcoming deep-rooted prejudice and stigma".

The Socialists do not have an absolute majority in parliament, and it was thought possible the law might undergo modifications.

The main opposition conservative Popular Party said it did not want homosexual unions to be called marriages nor gays to adopt children.

Yet for Gimeno, "the Catholic hierarchy has lost its battle." – Sapa-dpa

Related stories
Spain's RC church slams gay marriage plans [28/09/2004]



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