Spain's govt adopts bill legalising gay marriage

October 04, 2004

MADRID — The Spanish government on Friday approved a bill to legalise homosexual marriages, which will make it only the third country in Europe to condone same sex marriages.

It will also give gay couples the right to adopt.

The plan "recognises all rights for homosexuals, when it comes to qualifying for a pension, administering an estate, asking for a loan, authorising surgery for a partner," cabinet spokeswoman Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega told reporters.

"But also when it comes to asking to adopt a child." The idea has been fiercely opposed by the Roman Catholic Church and a senior cleric earlier this week blasted the plans.

"It would impose on society a virus, something false, which will have negative consequences for social life," insisted Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, spokesman for Spain's Episcopal Conference.

But according to an opinion poll conducted in late July, some two-thirds of Spaniards are in favour of gay marriages and now the cabinet has approved the bill such liaisons could become legal from as early as next year.

Spain's Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who took office in April, has made legalising gay marriages a key element of his social policy despite outrage from the Church.

Spain "is in the forefront of Europe and of the world in the struggle against centuries of discrimination," de la Vega said. She said that about four million of Spain's 40 million inhabitants were homosexual.

Once the reform becomes law Spain will join the Netherlands and Belgium in allowing full homosexual marriage, though only the Netherlands allows gay couples to adopt. Such unions are also legal in six Canadian provinces and the northeastern US state of Massachusetts.

De la Vega said: "There are thousands of children already living in Spain with homosexual parents and more than 50 studies show there are no differences between children who grow up with homosexual parents and others." "Most Spanish people think what is important in adoption is the well-being of the child quite apart from the sexual orientation of the parents," she said.

Some 14 articles of the civil code will be altered so that the words "man and woman" and "father and mother" are replaced by "partners" or "parents".

According to Justice Minister Juan Fernando Lopez de Aguilar, "this initiative has not been taken against anything or anyone" and he told the news conference that the government "is cooperating with the (Roman Catholic) Church and considers that an open conflict with it is not good."

"This law is part of the Socialist programme which has been voted for by the Spanish,"said Beatriz Gimeno, president of the country's Gay, Lesbian and Transexuals Federation.

"The Church has nothing to say about it. This interventionist tendency by the Church is the virus and must be eradicated," Zapatero himself, aware that the issue is extremely sensitive, said earlier this week: "I deeply respect the opinions of the Catholic Church even if they are very critical of the government. I ask them to show the same respect."

The country's main opposition Popular Party has said it plans to propose an alternative law allowing homosexuals to form a "civil union" that would give them the same rights as unmarried heterosexual couples, except the right to adopt. – Sapa-AFP

Related stories
Spain could become 3rd country to allow gay marriage [01/10/2004]



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