Spain’s Socialist-dominated parliament has approved a bill that will almost certainly legalise gay marriage. It will be only the third European country to legalise same-sex unions, after the Netherlands and Belgium. Gay and lesbian groups packed into the public gallery to watch the vote and outside parliament activists gathered to celebrate.
The bill reflects the radical change in recent decades in Spain, which for centuries has been a bastion of the Roman Catholic church. “This represents a turning point in the history of gays and lesbians in this country,” says Arnaldo Gancedo, the president of the Gay Rights collective. “We are very happy, very satisfied, bowled over with emotion”.
The bill must now go to the Senate, also Socialist-dominated, for approval in the coming weeks. Opposition to the law came from the conservative opposition and Christian rights groups.
Ignacio Arsuaga, president of Make Yourself Heard, said: “Yesterday we presented Congress with half a million signatures and it seems the government is more concerned with the interests of a minority instead of worrying about the interests of the majority of Spaniards who have gathered as families within wedlock.” But the government seems to be in tune with Spanish popular opinion, as 66 per cent of the population favours legalising gay marriage. The church’s influence is waning, with fewer than a fifth of young Spaniards classing themselves as practicing Catholics.