surinenglish

LGBT activists celebrate in the Congreso public gallery.
LGBT activists celebrate in the Congreso public gallery. / ReUTERS

21 April 2005: Congress passes gay marriage reform bill

  • Spain became only the third country to recognise the right of same-sex couples to marry, after Belgium and the Netherlands

There were celebrations among LGBT groups across Spain after the Spanish Congress voted in favour of the reform bill that would allow marriage between same-sex couples.

With 183 votes in favour, 136 against and three abstentions, Minister of Justice, Juan Fernando López Aguilar, announced that Spain would be only the third country to recognise the right of same-sex couples to marry, after Belgium and the Netherlands.

During the vote, which was applauded by the representatives of LGBT groups who witnessed the session from the public gallery, the bill was approved by all the political groups except the Partido Popular (PP) and Unió.

One member of the PP, however, former Mayor of Malaga and Minister of Health, Celia Villalobos, voted in favour, saying later that she was "following her conscience" rather than her party's policy.

A couple drink champagne in Malaga's Plaza de la Merced.

A couple drink champagne in Malaga's Plaza de la Merced. / SUR

Same-sex marriage was just one of a raft of measures proposed by socialist PSOE prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero; the bill also conceded same-sex couples the right to adopt children and also made it easier for married couples to get divorced.

According to the changes, couples could file for divorce three months after their wedding, rather than having to be officially separated for at least a year - or even earlier in cases of domestic violence.

However, as was to be expected, the law on gay marriage didn't go down well with hard-line conservatives nor with the Roman Catholic Church. In fact Spain's Bishops' Conference called the move an "error and an injustice".

In fact, when the bill was passed to the Senate, Spain's upper house, a veto proposed by the conservative PP, led by Mariano Rajoy, was approved.

This, though, was not enough to obstruct the will of the lower house which on 30 June 2005, approved the bill, overriding the Senate's veto, after Zapatero unexpectedly took to the floor to speak in support of the bill.

King Juan Carlos gave his royal assent the next day.

Approximately 4,500 same-sex couples married in Spain during the first year of the law.