Same-sex marriage bill passes in Spanish Congress of Deputies

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Friday, April 22, 2005

A government-backed bill to allow same-sex couples to marry and to adopt children has passed the Spanish Congress of Deputies. It has yet to pass in the Spanish Senate, although political commentators are speculating this will be simply a formality, and fully expect the bill to become law.

The Congress altered existing law governing marriage by adding this sentence: "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." This bill is now passed on to the Senate, which has a greater number of conservative members, making unlikely its passage. However, in the Spanish legal system the Senate's rejection is not binding.

Upon adoption, the law would make Spain the third European country to allow gay marriage, joining Belgium and The Netherlands. Unlike other same-sex marriage countries, Spain's proposal will allow for child adoption.

Pope Benedict XVI responded to this first test of his papacy by coming out strongly against the passage of the bill. One senior Vatican official, the head of the Pontifical Council on the Family Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, commented that the bill was "iniquitous", saying "One cannot say that a law is right simply because it is law."

Spain's adherence to some Catholic dictates, such as its objection to contraception use, is low. Traditional Catholics look to the new pope with the hope that his moral authority can restore to the faithful the principles of birth control and exclusion of those who remarry from partaking in communion.

The church, Cardinal Trujillo argued, does not discriminate against gays, who he feels simply need help. Calling on municipal offices asked to perform gay marriages to object, 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."

Spain's Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, took office in April last year intending to create a secularized state. Calling the Church's advantages undeniable, he hopes to ease laws in divorce and abortion.

Juan Fernando López Aguilar, the Minister of Justice, said "... barriers of discrimination, many of them with deep historical or primitive roots, which affect rights and freedoms and, in a specific way, the extension of free choice in the search for happiness, are an unwritten basic right". The parliament passed the bill with 183 for and 136 against. There were six abstentions. Gays and lesbians gathered in the public gallery cheered when the vote was read.