Spain through the looking glass

Spanish court upholds gay marriage laws

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You might have missed it given all the hullabaloo surrounding a certain recent presidential election, but Spain’s highest court has just upheld the country’s progressive gay marriage laws.

Yesterday, Spain’s Tribunal Constitucional issued a short statement (here, in Spanish) which reaffirmed the right of the country’s gay and lesbian couples to marry.

Over 100 people gathered at Madrid’s traditional meeting place, the Puerta del Sol, to celebrate the news. And although the full details of the court’s landmark decision won’t be available for a few days, the tribunal has finally ended the legal uncertainty which has surrounded the issue of gay marriage in Spain’s ever since the new rules were adopted in the middle of June 2005.

Over 20,000 gay marriages have taken place in Spain since the Ley del Matrimonio Homosexual was introduced seven years ago. But there has been lingering doubt about the status of these marriages because of a challenge to the law brought forward by Spain’s Partido Popular (PP) back in October 2005.

Just months after the law was introduced, some 72 delegates from the PP, then still on the sidelines of power, brought forward a challenge in the constitutional court. Now, some seven years later, that court has finally upheld the new law which puts sex-same marriages on equal footing as their heterosexual counterparts.

Today, Spain’s justice minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón came out strongly, saying, ‘I won’t change the law and I will leave it exactly how it is’.

Spain’s National Federation of Gays. Lesbians, Transsexuals and Bisexuals (FELGTB) greeted the news with rejoicing. In a press release, they said the judgement was a milestone for equality and individual dignity, and not just for the gay community, but for everyone.

The socialist PSOE party who helped pave the way for the gay marriage law were also in celebratory mood with party general secretary Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba stating, ‘Today is a great day because Spain has upheld [the values] of liberty, equality and respect in the face of those who have been trying to impose their dogmas.’

Rubalcaba concluded : ‘As of today, everybody in Spain can live with whom they want, sleep with whom they want and now – for always – marry whomever they want.’

The spokesperson for Spain’s Galician Nationalists Olaia Fernández Dávila also greeted the news positively. But Dávila didn’t pass up the opportunity to accuse the PP of moral backwardness and the constitutional court of dallying over an important decision. Speaking in Spain’s national congress, she also said the PP should now own up to its errors.

The voices of dissent were somewhat quieter. Today Spain’s Interior minister Jorge Fernández Díaz came out and said that marriage remained, for him, something that took place exclusively between men and women. Meanwhile, the conservative ABC newspaper used the editorial in its print edition to lambast the country’s gay marriage laws as another example of social engineering by the PSOE party. The paper’s editors said the PSOE had completely ignored deep national divisions on the issue and argued that the PP’s decision to appeal to the Tribunal Constitucional was entirely justified given that millions of Spaniards opposed same-sex unions.

Spain’s conference of bishops has said it will refrain from making a comment until full details of the decision become available.

There have been 22,124 gay marriages in Spain since the law was changed in 2005, according to the country’s national statistics institute. Two thirds (14,338) of these were between men and there have been 7,786 weddings involving two women.

Divorce rates among Spain’s gay couples are slightly higher than those for their heterosexual peers. For couples that married from 2007 to 2011, the same-sex divorce rate was 5.3 % while that figure was 3.6% for marriages involving a man and a woman. But José Ignacio Pichardo, a social anthropologist at Madrid’s Complutense University, said the higher rate among gays probably had something to do with the fact that those gay couples who married during that period had already been together longer (information taken from print edition of El Mundo November 7 p.7).

Update: For an interesting take on why marriage equality is good for the business, see this video from the Economist.


Written by georgemills25

November 7, 2012 at 16:05

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