Gay Spain News & Reports 2000-04

1 Lieutenant Colonel says he is gay and demands respect for homosexuals 9/00

2 Gays persecuted by Franco lose criminal status at last 12/01

(Five stories about a gay Spanish priest who came out publicly):

 -3 Gay Spanish Priest Stripped of Priesthood 2/02

 -4 Spanish gays urged to leave the Church 2/02

 -5 Gay Priest Fights to Change Church 2/02

 -6 ‘Thank God, I’m gay’ says gay Priest 2/02

 7 Gay Spanish priest challenges church on celibacy 2/02

8 Spain: Civil Guard To Live With Gay Partners In Barracks 11/02

9 Madrid mayoral candidate comes out 1/03

10 Couples in Spain launch gay marriage challenge 10/03

11 Gay Group Sues After Sermon 1/04

12 Same-sex couple rights become pivotal point in Spanish politics 1/04

13 Lesbian Spanish couple win right to adopt 2/04

14 Gay Spanish couple win right to adopt 2/04

15 Spain’s New Government to Legalize Gay Marriage 4/04

16 Gay activist takes high-profile political post 6/04

17 Gay Marriage To Be Legal In Spain In 2005 6/04

18 Spanish Gays Flee Catholic Church because of intolerance 7/04


El Pais, Madrid Spain ( )

September 3, 2000

Lieutenant Colonel says he is gay and demands respect for homosexuals
Jose Maria Sanchez Silva comes out of the closet to provoke debate in the armed forces

by Miguel Angel Villena, Madrid
To sow a seed and to provoke debate. These are the reasons of Jose Maria Sanchez Silva a 49 year old lieutenant colonel and a military lawyer, for taking an historic step by becoming the first high ranking officer in Spain’s military to publicly announce his homosexuality. "I believe," commented Sanchez Silva, "that my actions are honorable, truthful and noble, as are asked for by military ethics. Although the army has become more democratic, without anyone taking this step it would still be a long time before civil rights for homosexuals will be put into affect in our armed forces."

A teaching lawyer with enough room on his shoulders to bear responsibilities his career of military honors and serving as academic dean of the School of Army Legal Studies in Madrid, Sanchez Silva meditated a great deal before taking this step. For years, this lieutenant colonel… delicately featured, quick witted and meticulous, with the air of a university professor… has endured an infinite number of homophobic jokes in the barracks as well as in salons of power. He has quietly listened to the sexual boasts of his colleagues… always with women, of course. He resigned himself to silence during an encounter in a elevator when an elderly neighbor unexpectedly said, "I don’t know where this country is headed with all these faggots and criminals running loose."

Discrimination Prohibited
"Legislation based on our Constitution," states Sanchez Silva, "prohibits implicit or explicit discrimination in the Army on grounds of sexual orientation. However, subtle reprisals and camouflaged bigotry continue to take place on a daily basis. I decided to publicly declare my homosexuality because these rights have to be exercised and laws have got to be adapted to social realities. That much is clear."

The lieutenant colonel outlines his legal argument, making a seemingly airtight case. He defends his sexual preference on the grounds of social responsibility. Despite the toll of nerves and stress, he is convinced that somebody has addressed the armed forces by taking this step. "I‚am not trying to be a hero, "he states, "but I am putting myself forward on behalf of the many gays who are now serving in Spain’s armed forces." Most of this conversation with El Pais took place this past Thursday in offices of Zero, a magazine showcasing the lives and life styles of gays, celebrating in its pages those who have come out of the closet, an expression which means a public declaration of their sexual preference.

Now Jose Maria Sanchez Silva takes his turn on the cover of the issue of Zero which went on sale this week and which includes a brief interview with him along with an article written by the lieutenant colonel about the legal rights of gays. In previous editions artists like Nacho Duato or writers like Terenci Moix have revealed this intimate aspect of their personal lives.

According to Ricardo Llamas, editor in chief of Zero and author of such books as "Twisted Theory" and "Homographies", coming out of the closet for Jose Maria Sanchez Silva was not exactly a gimmick. It was not done to sell more records nor to market a movie, or even to promote a gay bar. Even though Sanchez Silva and the publishers of Zero question the legal vagaries of boundaries between public and private matters, they consider the present situation very unlike the attitude prevalent in the United States…

"Don’t ask, don’t tell" a policy which proved hypocritical from the moment it was introduced in the U.S. military. "Sexual preference", states Sanchez Silva, "should be appreciated as both a public identity as well a private sexual matter. At the very least, it should not be used to limit the freedom nor to compromise the dignity of any."

The lieutenant colonel gives examples of recent events which prompted him to come out of the closet. "My stance," he insists, "establishes my right to my own identity, the very same right demonstrated just a few weeks ago by thousands of gays in the movements of Madrid and Rome. As a military officer, I could not participate in those demonstrations, but I completely support these struggles."

The non-regulation actions taken by Jose Maria Sanchez Silva dramatically show how difficult it is to be a free individual while in the army. He describes that some subordinates avoid eye contact when saluting him. "Blessed are the meek‚" Sanchez Silva observed, "but this forces us to renounce our rights, to suffer in silence, to remain hidden."

The Guardian (

December 13, 2001

Gays persecuted by Franco lose criminal status at last

by Giles Tremlett in Madrid
Spain’s parliament yesterday pledged to wipe clean the criminal records of gays locked up by the former dictator General Francisco Franco, and to look at ways to compensate them for the years of torture and imprisonment. Thousands of homosexuals were jailed, put in camps or locked up in mental institutions under Franco’s homophobic dictatorship, which lasted for 40 years until his death in 1975. Prison terms of up to three years were imposed under laws covering "public scandal" or "social danger".

Homosexuals, almost all of them men, were packed off to mental hospitals where some were given electric shock. Yesterday’s decision means that sentences for homosexuality will be taken off police files and the parliament will seek a way to redress the damage done. One of those demanding compensation is Antonio Ruiz, from the eastern city of Valencia, who was sent to prison at 17 in the dying days of the Franco regime after he told his mother that he was gay and she asked a nun for advice. "The nun went straight to the police and I was arrested and sent for trial," he recalled yesterday. "I spent three months in prison. I was raped there and in the police cells and psychologically tortured by both the guards and the prison doctor."

Five years ago, when stopped by police officers who checked his identity over the radio, he discovered that his homosexuality was still registered on a police file. "Watch out, that one’s queer," one of the police officers said. It took until last year for him to get his record formally destroyed. Now he wants compensation. "It is not a question of money, but of moral restitution for someone who was brutally persecuted and had his life ruined," he said.

The exact numbers of those affected by the measures agreed yesterday are hard to determine. At least 1,000 gays were jailed during the last decade of Franco’s rule. "A lot of them do not want to recall what happened," said a historian, Pablo Fuentes. Those who suffered were mainly from the lower classes, Mr Fuentes said. "It is not uncommon to hear homosexuals from the upper classes and the aristocracy speak about the Franco period as a great time." The persecution did not end with Franco’s death.

When thousands of political and other prisoners were pardoned the following year, homosexuals were left to serve out their sentences. They could still be jailed until 1979 by the courts under the law on so-called "social dangers and rehabilitation". Pedro Zerolo, president of Spain’s Federation of Gays and Lesbians, welcomed parliament’s decision but hoped more would be done. "What we want is a declaration of moral rehabilitation for those people who had part of their lives stolen by the state," he said.

The Franco regime and its Falangist supporters considered homosexuals a threat to their ideal of a "macho" Spanish male. "Any effeminate or introvert who insults the movement will be killed like a dog," General Queipo del Llano, Franco’s favourite broadcaster, once threatened. Among the most prominent homosexuals killed by the regime was the leftwing poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca, whose writings were considered dangerously subversive. At the end of Franco’s regime, homosexuality was increasingly viewed as an illness rather than a crime.

"Homosexuals should be seen more as sick people than as criminals. But the law should still prevent them proselytising in schools, sports clubs and army barracks," one psychologist, Lopez Ibor, wrote in 1968. The conservative People’s party of the current prime minister, José Maria Aznar, voted yesterday against an amendment that would have automatically given financial compensation to former gay prisoners, but agreed a committee should study the matter. In recent years parliament has compensated former political prisoners and anti-Franco guerrilla fighters.


February 6, 2002

Gay Spaniard stripped of priesthood

Madrid – A Catholic priest who scandalised the Spanish church by announcing his homosexuality in a gay magazine was stripped of the priesthood on Wednesday.

The Church said it was acting against Father Jose Mantero for abandoning his post and breaking his vow of celibacy. Mantero, 39, from Valverde del Camino parish in Spain’s rural southern province of Huelva, caused a sensation last week by coming out in the glossy gay magazine Zero in a challenge to long-standing church taboos on homosexuality.

A priest for 10 years, Mantero believes he is the first Spanish priest to publicly declare himself gay. News reports said Mantero did not appear in his parish in the days following the interview, although he did show up on Spanish television on Tuesday evening to declare he wanted to continue being a priest but was not ready to renounce his homosexuality. His announcement was greeted with a flurry of publicity in the Spanish media and the response of the Bishop of Huelva, Ignacio Noguer, did not take long in coming.

By suddenly leaving his post and breaking his vow of celibacy, Noguer said in a open letter, Mantero had placed himself "outside the discipline of the Church on a subject of extreme gravity and scandal for the faithful." "This obliges me, not without deep regret, formally to withdraw all ministerial licences from Mr. Jose Mantero," the bishop said. Mantero told Zero magazine he had renounced celibacy. "I believed in it for seven years…but I was drowning in a pit," he said.

Mantero told a radio interviewer last week he hoped the interview would act as a seed "so that one day homophobic declarations disappear from the Church." "Just as one feels a calling from God to become a priest…I felt that God could be calling on me…to ring Zero magazine," he added. In his letter, the bishop said he had tried in vain for several days to talk to Mantero, but the facts were so clear that they called for the application of Church law. He said the Church would continue trying to be a mother to all, so that, "those who err or distance themselves from it will always find its arms open to reconciliation and pardon."

A spokesman for the episcopal conference, Juan Jose Asenjo, said last week that the Catholic church regards homosexual sex as a sin but condemns discrimination against gay people. That aside, Mantero had broken the vow of celibacy, he said. "I don’t think it is plausible for a priest to live an active homosexual life," Asenjo said. The Catholic Church still wields considerable influence in Spain, especially in rural areas.

BBC News

February 7, 2002

Spanish gays urged to leave the Church

Spain’s leading gay organisation has urged homosexuals to leave the Catholic Church in protest at the suspension of a priest who came out in a magazine last week Father Jose Mantero, 39, was suspended on Wednesday for breaking his celibacy vows and abandoning his parish. "The church does not allow homosexuality. It considers it to be a sin and a mental disorder," said the spokesman of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, Juan Jose Asenjo.

Mr Mantero had told the glossy gay magazine Zero that he was a practising homosexual, and did not return to his parish after the interview was published. Defending Mr Mantero, The Association of Gays and Lesbians accused the Church of operating a "well-oiled political machine for campaigning against homosexuality".

Church v Gays
Pedro Cerola, the president of the association, told a news conference that homosexuals should refuse to pay taxes "to an organisation that continues insulting and condemning us". "They should leave," he declared. Meanwhile, the leader of the gay platform within the ruling conservative People’s Party, Carlos Alberto Biendicho, threatened to reveal the names of three homosexual bishops with whom he claimed to have had sexual relations if the Church continued to punish Mr Mantero.

Mr Mantero, who is the first Catholic priest in modern Spanish history to have publicly declared his homosexuality, is keen to remain within the Church. "I feel very happy in the Church and I love it," he told Zero. "I want to fight for change from within." He said he had made public his homosexuality "because the Church had committed a grave sin in closing itself off to a very important part of God’s people."

"Just as one feels calling from God to become a priest, I felt that God could be calling on me, to ring Zero magazine," he said.

Correspondents say Mr Mantero’s suspension has sparked heated debate across the country. While the Church retains a strong influence in Spain, homosexuality has become widely accepted in Spanish society since being severely repressed during the 1935-1975 dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. Thousands of homosexuals were jailed, put in camps or locked up in mental institutions under the regime, with which the Church was closely allied.

Associated Press

February 8, 2002

Gay Priest Fights to Change Church

by Jerome Socolovsky, Madrid, Spain
The first priest in Spanish history to openly acknowledge living an active homosexual life vowed Friday to fight to make the Roman Catholic Church abandon its "caveman mentality” and accept gays and lesbians in the pews and on the pulpit. But the Rev. Jose Mantero first had to defend himself against what he described as a smear campaign by prelates and conservative opinion makers since his confession scandalized the church and catapulted him to stardom in Spain.

"Being gay not only is not a sin, it’s a gift from God. It’s a gift from God equal to being heterosexual,” the priest from the small southern town of Valverde del Camino told a packed news conference at a Madrid hotel. "If he created you gay, he wants you to be gay. At no point does he want you to regret being so.” Mantero, 39, revealed his homosexuality in an interview last week with the gay magazine Zero, saying he realized he was gay when he was 12.

The admission triggered a debate on television talk shows, in cafes and in the living rooms of a nation once known as "the sword of Rome” for its fervent support of Roman Catholicism. This week, the Bishop of Huelva, Monsignor Ignacio Noguer Carmona, prohibited Mantero from hearing confession. Other clerics called him "sick” and "abnormal” while an editorialist for the conservative ABC newspaper accused him of desiring publicity, calling him a "fairground freak.” Even his Web site was plastered with links to pornographic sites, a fact reported by the newspaper without mentioning the possibility of sabotage. The paper also claimed to have details of the priest’s participation in gay bashes and Internet chat sites.

Mantero rejected the allegations as "radical fallacy … which shows what’s behind this.” "I have no interest in fame,” he told the news conference. Nevertheless, the cleric’s revelation has ignited a national debate on homosexuality and the requirement of celibacy for priests. A television talk show devoted Friday night’s edition to the issue, taking calls from women who had relationships with priests and gave birth to children as a result. Homosexuality–severely repressed during the 1939-75 dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco–has only been accepted in mainstream Spanish society in recent years, after a senior army officer, several politicians and entertainment figures came out of the closet.

A number of regional governments have recognized conjugal rights for homosexuals, and the northern province of Navarra now allows gay adoptions. Mantero said the church’s response to his admissions reflects "a caveman mentality that has inflicted so much suffering and oppression on gays and lesbians not only throughout history but also in our own days.” However, he said he didn’t expect the church to change overnight and accept openly gay priests in to its ranks. "The church moves not by years, but by millennia,” he said. "The change will happen. When? I don’t know, but this will help bring it about.” . On the Net: Spanish bishops’ conference, Christian Gay and Lesbian Association,

The Guardian, London, England ( )

22 February 2002

‘Thank God, I’m gay’ says gay Priest

Jose Mantero has shocked much of Catholic Europe by coming out. Why? He’s Spain’s first openly gay priest.

by Giles Tremlett
The Spanish nun who walked into Father Jose Mantero’s confessional was not wearing a habit, but that was not what was troubling her. "I have fallen in love with one of the sisters, with another nun," she whispered through the grille separating them. "She wanted me to call her a monster and a sinner. Instead I told her about a gay association in Seville. She was furious and stormed out. I didn’t even have time to give her absolution," says Mantero.

"That’s what the Roman Catholic church does to homosexuals." Now Mantero has decided it is time to bring the issue out of the confessional and into the open. He has done so in the most public and, for many, shocking way imaginable – on the front cover of a glossy gay magazine, smiling over the top of his dog collar and saying: "Thank God I am gay." He goes down in history as the first Spanish priest to come out. He may also be remembered as the man who finally blew the whistle on a taboo subject at the Vatican–gays in the clergy. In his interview with Zero magazine, Mantero not only came out but also admitted that he had ignored, and intended to continue ignoring, his vow of celibacy.

Two weeks later, he has been suspended from his job as one of two parish priests at the baroque Our Lady of Rest church in Valverde del Camino, a town of 12,000, mainly catholic, souls. He is now waiting to be hauled over the coals by his boss, the Bishop of Huelva. "They have special places where they send gay priests, where they try to brainwash you with verses from the Bible and offer chemical castration with pills," he says. Another option might be "a remote mission in Latin America". Sitting in the Madrid offices of Zero, he smokes his way through a packet of cigarettes but otherwise seems remarkably unruffled by the scandal he has provoked. The dog collar is gone and, in his plum-coloured, open-necked shirt, grey jeans and brown boots there is nothing, not even a crucifix, to say he is a priest. A single silver hoop hangs from his left ear, a little silver ball welded to the bottom – a small token of nonconformity. He drags one leg as he walks, the result of polio as a baby.

The 39-year-old, who has 15 years of ministry behind him, has enraged church conservatives. Spanish bishops have declared him "sick" and talked of "moral disorder". "A sceptic boil has appeared on the face of the Spanish church and covered it with pus," raged Cardinal Dario Castrillon, Prefect for the Congregation of the Clergy at the Vatican. At the same time, however, Mantera’s email queue is full of messages of support from gay Catholics. "Last time I looked there were nearly 300 messages," he says.

There is no lack of gay priests, monks or nuns in the Catholic church. "Pope Paul VI was a great queer," says Mantero. "And when I say that I mean it with respect. He was also a great pope." Mantero realised he was gay when he was 12. He was watching a television film with his friends. "They were all going on about how they fancied the blonde girl and I found I was thinking hey, I like that trucker with her."

Being gay is not a sin to the Catholic church–until you have sex. "The church says we must have compassion for homosexuals, which means it thinks there is something wrong with us. For many gay priests this is a personal hell. They see themselves as defective beings." When Mantero took his vows he had no experience of sex and was convinced he would have no trouble remaining celibate. Then, seven years ago, he fell in love with his first boyfriend. His partners, and he admits to several since then, have mostly been Catholic.

Breaking his celibacy vow drove home the duplicity of his position. In Valverde del Camino he was "Don Jose" or, to the young, plain "Pepe". In gay internet chat rooms he was "Kyrlian". He would travel to Madrid, visit gay bars and go to "hairy bear" parties (a sub-genre of the gay scene, whose clientele consists chiefly of big paternal men with beards). Last year he wrote a piece in a local Catholic magazine supporting Gay Pride day. Zero heard about it and rang him for an interview. He agreed, then rang back to say: "By the way, I am gay myself." Mantero will not be accepting the offer of a trip to the church’s Venturini centre in Italy or the Salt Lake centre in the US, where chemical castration with the drug depoprovera is allegedly on offer. He aims, instead, to stand his ground.

"Being gay is a gift from God," he explains. "The reaction of the church’s hierarchy is abominable. This church should be about love and justice. Now it is just worried about sex." Gays in the clergy, he says, should "kick down the closet doors." Surely, though, by relinquishing celibacy, he has betrayed the trust of his congregation, regardless of who he has sex with?

But Mantero wants this changed too. He is by no means the first priest to argue against celibacy. But, he says, there are double standards. "There are priests who actually live with the woman who is their partner… Sometimes it is well known, but nobody complains. "The church hierarchy, from the Pope down, is deeply homophobic. I have even heard one bishop, who admitted to me that he was gay, giving rabidly anti-homosexual sermons." That does not mean, however, that he is in favour of outing clergymen. One gay activist has threatened to out three bishops whom he had had sex with while studying at a Spanish seminary, if they act against Mantero. "That is blackmail, I don’t agree with it," he says. Some gays have criticised him for not turning his back on the church.

"He must abandon a church that discriminates, rejects and offends – and all the other gay priests should go with him," said Eduardo Mendicutti, one of Spain’s leading gay writers. In Valverde del Camino, news of Mantero’s coming out has caused surprise, but not rejection. He is considered an excellent priest, able, among an ageing Spanish clergy that has had to start importing priests from Latin America, to engage with the young. "If it was put to a vote, most would want him to stay," neighbours told the hordes of Spanish journalists who descended on the town. Some time ago, Mantero remembers hearing the confession of a young man in Valverde. "Father I have sinned. I have had sex with a man. There must be something wrong with me," he said. "Don’t worry, I am gay too. Do you think there is anything wrong with me?" the priest replied. "I can see him slowly coming to terms with it," he says. "I’d like to think I helped."


February 26, 2002

Gay Spanish priest challenges church on celibacy

by Julia Hayley, Madrid
A Catholic priest who scandalised the Spanish church by revealing to a gay magazine he was a practising homosexual says he wants to stir a debate on celibacy within the church. Jose Mantero, who was quickly banned from his duties as a priest in a small town in southwest Spain after he appeared on the front cover of Zero magazine this month, told Reuters in an interview that his campaign was just beginning.

"I will continue the fight because it would now be absurd not to…the debate has come to the boil and it’s vital to fan the fire," he said. "There are few signs things are changing in the church, but there is a very intense internal debate," he said. The depth of feeling on the subject appears to be borne out by the number of e-mail messages Zero has received since Mantero’s public confession.

"We’ve had 1,500 e-mails from priests and other people in the religious community in two weeks, plus around 200 letters, and they’re still arriving," said Miguel Angel Lopez, Zero’s director. The church is playing its part in the debate and has a section on its webpage tackling "recent polemical questions" where Mantero’s bishop and archbishop explain their position. The organisation has been having a bad time in Spain.

Only two weeks after Mantero came out, saying he had lived in hell for the last three years of his 10 as a priest, another rural priest in a remote village was arrested on suspicion of being involved in an Internet-based child pornography ring. Mantero said he was shocked by the case, and knew of no others in the church. "But this is all fostered by celibacy. People find a sick outlet," he said.

"One of the reasons there’s a shortage of priests feeling the vocation is the celibacy vow," he added. Mantero, a youthful, earringed and leather-jacketed 39-year-old who is fond of baroque music and bike riding, says he was surprised by the speed with which the church reacted to his case. The official church line is that a priest who breaks the vow of celibacy cannot continue in his post.

The archbishop of Merida-Badajoz said the issue was not one of the priest’s sexual orientation but of flouting the vow of celibacy in such a public and scandalous way. The bishop of Huelva reiterated this. "By abruptly abandoning his parochial duties and holding up publicly and propagandistically his break with the commitment to celibacy, he has placed himself outside the discipline of the Church," Ignacio Noguer Carmona said in a letter reproduced on the church’s website. "That obliges me, not without deep regret, formally to withdraw Mr Jose Mantero’s ministerial licences." One bishop called Mantero "sick" but in general the church’s response has been measured.

The church exerts considerable influence in Spain and 30 percent of the population say they are practising Catholics. Mantero accuses the church of double standards. "There are plenty of heterosexual priests who don’t respect the celibacy vow and don’t receive the same treatment as I did. The attitude is usually one of ‘you carry on with the girl as long as nobody knows about it’," he said.

Many Parishiners Support Mantero
Mantero has found support among many of his parishioners in the depressed industrial town of Valverde del Camino, population 2,500, who are generally not bothered by his revelations. He sees this as evidence social attitudes are changing faster than those of the church. He outed himself on a small scale last year when he decided his position had become intolerable and published an article titled "Gay Pride" in a local Catholic magazine. Zero, a national magazine with 150,000 readers, then contacted him and convinced him to take a bigger step with a cover photo and six page interview in its February issue. "I think this is the first public case of its kind anywhere in the Catholic church…

There was one other in Spain some 25 years ago, but the priest was pushed out of the church first and it only emerged later why," Zero’s editor Miguel Angel Lopez told Reuters. Zero has revealed dozens of covert homosexuals in its almost four years in existence, but does it with their cooperation and with none of the aggressive tactics of some American and British publications. Mantero’s partnership with the magazine will continue. "There’s a lot of further work and collaboration ahead–writing, speeches, meetings and so on…Jose knows he’s going to become an authorised voice," Lopez said.

It remains to be seen whether Mantero’s case will have any long term impact on the Catholic church. Theologian Juan Jose Tamayo-Acosta, writing in the daily newspaper El Pais, noted that the Catholic church’s denial of sexuality has no base either in Judaism or in the life of Christ but is drawn from the teachings of Greek philosopher Plato and Saint Augustine. "When Christians discover that sexuality is a party and confessors put it on the list of good works, we will be at the start of a new era," he concluded. U.K

7 November 2002

Spain: Civil Guard To Live With Gay Partners In Barracks

Spain is to allow members of its Civil Guard to live with gay partners in staff barracks. The move follows a public campaign by a Majorca-based officer to live with his partner in staff barracks. Under the new regulations gay and lesbian officer who have been living together for two years will be entitled to live in staff barracks as a couple. The Civil Guard was founded by fascisist dictator Francisco Franco. Now Spain is run by a constitutional monarch the Civil Guard act as a quasi military force, fighting international crime. (glbt)

January 2, 2003

Madrid mayoral candidate comes out

A Green Party candidate for the mayor of Madrid, Spain, has come out of the closet, Agence France-Presse reports. Jose Maria Mendiluce, who is a member of the European Parliament, acknowledged his sexual orientation in an interview in the January issue of the gay magazine Zero. The 51-year-old told the magazine that he had hidden his sexual orientation until now out of "cowardice" and because it could have hurt his political career. "The gay community can count on me to defend our rights together," he said. Both the mayors of Paris and Berlin are gay men, but Mendiluce seems unlikely to join their elite circle – opinion polls give the Green Party little hope for success. (glbt)

October 23, 2003

Couples in Spain launch gay marriage challenge

Three gay couples, with a Madrid councilman among them, have filed for official permission to marry in a high-profile challenge to the conservative Spanish government’s refusal to recognize gay marriage, Agence France-Presse reports. Two couples applied for permission in Madrid and another in the eastern city of Valencia, all on Wednesday, in moves backed by the opposition Socialists and the Communist-linked United Left (IU) coalition. The parties sent representatives along with the Madrid couples. A registry judge must give them an answer within two weeks, the Spanish newspaper El Mundo said. Should they be refused, the couples will take the issue to the courts, first filing an appeal with Spain’s constitutional court and then, if need be, with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. Given the conservative government’s persistence in refusing to authorize gay marriage, "we are going to try to win in the courts as happened in Canada", said Beatriz Gimeno, who applied for a marriage license with his partner, Boti Garcia, in Madrid along with another couple, Pedro Zerolo, a Socialist who holds an elected seat on the Madrid city council, and his partner, Jesus Santos. The other couple, Antonio Boveda and Miguel Angel Fernandez, applied in Valencia, the newspaper El Pais reported. In February, Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar’s right-wing People’s Party defeated an opposition bill allowing gay marriages. People’s Party deputy Rosa Estaras said at the time her party had used its absolute majority to defeat a proposal it deemed "unconstitutional." Four of Spain’s autonomous regions – the Basque country, Andalusia, Catalonia, and Navarra – have adopted legislation that is more liberal than national laws but falls short of legalizing gay marriage. The regional laws accord unmarried couples – both gay and straight – the same rights as married couples in adoption, health care, and taxation.

Religion News Service

January 3, 2004

Gay Group Sues After Sermon

A Spanish homosexual organization is suing the country’s Roman Catholic primate for suggesting that same-sex marriages would bring down the country’s social security system. The Popular Gay Platform, an association of politically conservative homosexuals, filed the action a day after a sermon about the Holy Family by Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela at Madrid’s Almudena Cathedral. The association’s president, Carlos Biendicho, told El Mundo newspaper that the primate’s words constitute "slander and an incitement to discrimination" on the basis of sexual orientation. As in the United States, gays in Spain are demanding the right to be legally married and have access to the attendant benefits.

Spain’s Socialist Party and other opposition factions are in favor of same-sex marriage. But it has been rejected by Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, whose conservative Popular Party appeals to many conservative Catholics and holds an absolute majority in Parliament. In his sermon, Rouco Varela said that if families based on marriage between a man and a woman are put on an equal footing with "all types of unions, including those by nature unable to have children, it will result in the systematic destruction of the social security system."

He suggested same-sex couples would overburden the state pension system by drawing retirement benefits without having had children whose incomes would keep the system going. Rouco Varela’s comments come as Spain and other European countries face collapse of their state pension systems mainly because of low birthrates. The primate argued that it is "the fecund love of the Christian family" that is best for the survival of the welfare system, even though large families are rejected as a thing of the past by many young Spaniards. "How many large families have experienced criticism from the very same people who will depend in their time of sickness and old age on the generous contributions of the children of these families to the social security system?" the cleric said. UK

6 January 2004

Same-sex couple rights become pivotal point in Spanish politics

While political pundits claim this year’s US presidential elections will be dominated by same sex partnership rights, in Spain the issue is also beginning to become key to election campaigns. The country, which is set to go to the polls in March, has seen a sudden outburst of arguments regarding same sex rights after the current opposition party promised legal rights should they make it into power. The Socialist Party said it would work to reduce discrimination against lesbians and gays in the country and would work to ensure relationships are formally recognised through similar rights and responsibilities to marriage. But the claims have angered the ruling Popular party, who have decided to use the issue as a key point in their campaign, urging Catholic believers top vote for them and they will block any such legislation.

Additionally, the country’s Church head, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, has stepped into the fray to claim the promise of equality is an "outrage" because gay families are "incapable by nature of having children". He added that such suggestions would precipitate the "collapse of the social security system". This was backed by the country’s current Finance Minister Cristobal Montoro, who claimed the extra spending on same sex couples and single parent families would have a negative impact on employment and the country’s whole economy. Socialists have since responded by slamming the minister as preaching "imbecilic and intolerant machismo". Whether they can compete with the Catholic Church in the staunchly religious country, remains to be seen.


February 16, 2004

Lesbian Spanish couple win right to adopt

Madrid (Reuters) – A Spanish judge has allowed the female partner of a mother of twins to adopt her children, making a same-sex couple legal parents for the first time in Spain, a gay rights group says. The one-year-old girls had been conceived by artificial insemination, the Spanish Federation for Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals said in a statement on Monday. In mainly Catholic Spain, same-sex marriage is not allowed, although opposition politicians have made several attempts to legalise it in recent years.

The autonomous regions of the Basque country and Navarre – where the judge’s ruling was made last week – have allowed same-sex couples to adopt children since 2000, although no such laws exist on a national level. No one at the Navarre justice department was available to comment. Gay people can adopt as individuals but their partners have no legal right over the children. The Netherlands and Britain have passed laws allowing homosexual couples to adopt children and Belgium has said it could follow. The Vatican condemns same-sex unions.


February 16, 2004

Gay Spanish couple win right to adopt

Madrid (Reuters) – A Spanish judge has allowed the female partner of a mother of twins to adopt her children, making a same-sex couple legal parents for the first time in Spain, a gay rights group says. The one-year-old girls had been conceived by artificial insemination, the Spanish Federation for Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals said in a statement on Monday. In mainly Catholic Spain, same-sex marriage is not allowed, although opposition politicians have made several attempts to legalise it in recent years.

The autonomous regions of the Basque country and Navarre – where the judge’s ruling was made last week – have allowed same-sex couples to adopt children since 2000, although no such laws exist on a national level. No one at the Navarre justice department was available to comment. Gay people can adopt as individuals but their partners have no legal right over the children. The Netherlands and Britain have passed laws allowing homosexual couples to adopt children and Belgium has said it could follow.


April 15, 2004

Spain’s New Government to Legalize Gay Marriage

Madrid – Spain will legalize homosexual marriages and grant equal rights to gay couples, incoming Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Thursday. The move is likely to stir controversy in one of Europe’s most Catholic countries as the Vatican condemns same-sex unions and homosexuality was banned under Spanish dictator Francisco Franco.

Spain’s Catholic bishops have already spoken out strongly against the adoption of children by homosexual couples. “The moment has finally arrived to end once and for all the intolerable discrimination which many Spaniards suffer because of their sexual preferences,” Zapatero told parliament during a debate which will end with a vote to confirm him in office. “Homosexuals and transsexuals deserve the same public consideration as heterosexuals,” he said. “As a result we will modify the Civil Code to recognize their equal right to marriage with the resulting effects over inheritance, labor rights and social security protection.”

Nine other European Union countries already have some provision for recognizing those in committed same-sex relationships
. Last month, Britain said it would give legal recognition to gay partnerships. Homosexuality was banned during Franco’s 1939-1975 dictatorship. Spain’s liberal 1978 constitution outlawed sexual discrimination and homosexuality was legalized shortly afterwards. In the United States, the fight over gay marriage has become an election-year issue after officials in several states used ambiguities in the law to begin marrying gay couples. President Bush is backing an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriages.

Zapatero, whose Socialist party swept to a surprise victory in general elections last month just three days after train bombs which killed 191 people, made legalizing gay unions one of his campaign pledges


June 19, 2004

Gay activist takes
high-profile political post

Reuters in Vitoria – A gay rights activist became Spain’s first openly gay person in a high-profile political post yesterday when he was named ombudsman for Spain’s Basque region. Inigo Lamarka, head of the Basque Association of Gays and Lesbians, hailed his appointment as a breakthrough. He said he was pleased his sexuality had not been a "handicap" to his appointment. "After an excessively long historical period, the historic moment has now come for homosexual people in the Basque Country and in democratic countries to put an end to exclusion, to almost flagrant discrimination," Mr Lamarka added.

Rumours may abound about the sexuality of some high-profile politicians but the media tend not to pry.

In Spain, the Roman Catholic church, which claims a majority following and speaks out against same-sex unions, co-exists with a new socialist government which has pledged to legalise gay marriage. Homosexuality was illegal until 1975, when General Francisco Franco died after a 36-year dictatorship.

Associated Press,

June 30, 2004

Gay Marriage To Be Legal In Spain In 2005

Madrid – Spain’s Parliament may approve same-sex marriages early next year, Justice Minister Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar said on Wednesday. He spoke a day after lawmakers took a first step in that direction, approving a nonbinding resolution urging the Socialist government to amend Spain’s civil code to permit gay marriage. Lopez Aguilar said legislators will start reforming articles in the code as early as September, and that gay marriage could become a reality early next year.

"It’s a challenge that this government wants to undertake, to remove a border of inequality," Lopez Aguilar said after meeting with representatives of gay and lesbian groups. "It is a fair cause that doesn’t offend anyone." If the law is approved, it will make Spain the third European country to recognize gay marriages after The Netherlands and Belgium. It is also legal in Massachusetts in the the United States.

Gay rights campaigners welcomed the preliminary vote in Parliament’s lower house. "Finally, 28 years after our Constitution was approved after a long struggle, we see how our right to equality is being recognized," said Beatriz Gimeno, the president of the National Federation of Gays and Lesbians. Since taking office in April, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has vowed to institute deep changes on social issues after eight years of conservative rule.

On the day he was confirmed as prime minister, he told Parliament he vowed to allow gay marriage and fight discrimination against homosexuals. This was followed days later with the appointment of a Cabinet of eight men and eight women, including a female deputy prime minister. The Socialist’s first Bill submitted to Parliament calls for tougher penalties for violence against women.
The government also wants to ease Spain’s strict law on abortion, give full legal status to common-law marriages and adopt a more liberal policy on assisted reproduction. Pope John Paul II recently expressed concern about Zapatero’s ideas, fearing they might weaken family values in this predominantly Roman-Catholic country. Newscenter Staff

July 14, 2004

Spanish Gays Flee Catholic Church because of intolerance

(Madrid) The tough stand by the Roman Catholic Church on homosexuality and same-sex marriage is driving gays from the Church by the hundreds.

In one protest alone 1500 letters from gays and lesbians were delivered to the Catholic primate of Spain renouncing their faith.
" I do not wish to belong to an institution that crushes gays, lesbians and transsexuals daily," said Pedro Zerolo, a member of the Socialist Party executive board and who has asked that his names be struck from church records. Spain’s Socialist government announced last month that it would legalize gay marriage in the country where 95 percent of the population is Catholic.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was summoned to an audience with the Pope and given a stern rebuke with the Pontiff telling him that his government must conserve ethical and moral values rooted in its Christian culture. " That’s … out of the Middle Ages and there is no place for it," said gay activist Arnaldo Gancedo Senra. "The Government is doing something big for us … and if it needs our support we gays, lesbians and transsexuals will be there for it."