Saturday, 10 December 2011

Malta Star: Spain gay rights activists fear backlash

26 November 2011 18:03

The centre-right Popular Party (PP) won Spain's general election promising to lead the country out of economic crisis and restore investor confidence in its solvency.

Uncertainty over how precisely it plans to do that continues to rattle the financial markets.

But the mystery surrounding PP policy in other areas is proving equally unsettling for some Spaniards.

Gay-rights groups are concerned about the fate of the same-sex marriage law.

Both were Socialist Party initiatives, and the PP lodged immediate appeals against both in the Constitutional Court.

'Sword of Damocles'
So the mayor of one small town in Andalusia says there has been a surge of interest in his "express-marriage" service for same-sex couples anxious to tie the knot as soon as possible.

"They're afraid of what the PP will do," Jose Antonio Rodriguez told the BBC from Jun.

"Before the election debate on TV, about 60 couples had contacted me. Now I reply to about 100 enquires a day."

In that TV debate, the Socialist Party candidate called on his opponent to remove "the sword of Damocles hanging over couples' heads" by withdrawing the Pop's appeal against the gay marriage law.

Mariano Rajoy responded that it is "just a question of name" - he prefers the term "civil union" - and concluded that he would "wait for the decision of the court".

But for those affected, the name is everything.

"It [marriage] means that all families are recognised as equal," argues Antonio Poveda, president of Spain's Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals (FELGTB).

That equality - including the right for gay couples to adopt - was hard-won after decades of discrimination under General Franco's dictatorship.

"There was a poll just after the transition to democracy and 85% of people thought homosexuality was an illness or should be punished. We have moved from there to having equal rights," Mr Poveda says.

He argues that such rights should be cherished.

"It was a great day for democracy here when the same-sex marriage law was passed. For the first time, Catholic Spain became a reference point for social rights," says Antonio Poveda.

"The economic crisis will pass, but the legacy this government will leave are those advances in equal rights."

Despite its deep Catholic roots, Spain was the third country ever to legalise gay marriage.

About 20,000 couples have wed since the civil code was changed in 2005. A 2011 survey showed that 77% support for the reform among 15- to 29-year-olds.

Source: BBC News

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