Homosexuality And Gay Marriage In Spain

Homosexuality And Gay Marriage In Spain

In recent years same sex marriages and (as in the UK) same sex partnerships have slowly passed into law, often with fierce opposition from politicians and religious groups. Legalisation of homosexuality is the first step in the recognition of non-heterosexual sexualities but that is a long way from ensuring that gay and lesbian couples have an equal standing in law.

It’s therefore surprising that a country like Spain with a history of Catholicism and right wing conservative government were the third country in Europe to legalise same sex marriages. Only The Netherlands and Belgium beat the Spanish to enshrining gay marriage in law.

The speed of change is astonishing and a testament to the commitment of the socialist government who made it happen. From Catholic persecution throughout the Christian era to Franco’s fascist dictatorship being gay was not only reviled but a real danger to your health or even life. Until December 26th 1979 it was perfectly possible to be arrested and sent to an institution to be “cured” of homosexuality with electric shock therapy (ECT).

Same sex marriage was legalised in Spain on 3rd July 2005 and within one year 4,500 couples had been joined in marriage, but this was not universally welcomed. There have been challenges to this law particularly in the early years after the legislation was passed but each challenge was systematically crushed. In one case where a judge refused to issue a marriage license to a couple the judge was eventually disciplined and fined!

But making being gay or gay marriage legal does not necessarily make being a gay individual or a gay couple easy. Attitudes in Spain especially amongst older citizens will take a long time to change and it may be several generations before that happens as such bigotry tends to be deeply ingrained. Gay Spain may have to wait for the prejudice to literally die out before they feel safe to be out and proud in all situations.

This is highlighted by the latest news story from Spain about older gay citizens. They feel that because of the attitude of fellow citizens they have to “go back in the closet” when they move to retirement homes to avoid negative reactions from fellow residents. The situation is so acute that the first retirement home for gay Spanish citizens will be built near Madrid. Apartheid maybe but it would seem that retired Spanish citizens feel this separation is a price worth paying for a peaceful retirement where they can be themselves.

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