On June 29, 2005, Spain became the fourth nation in the world to offer legal marriage to same-sex couples. The law states: “Matrimony shall have the same requirements and effects regardless of whether the persons involved are of the same or different sex.”
Before Parliament voted to approve this bill, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero gave a stirring speech during the plenary session of Congress in support of the measure to ensure equality and freedom for all. The full text of this speech follows:
Freedom and Equality (La Libertad y La Igualdad):
Today, my government definitively submits for Senate approval the Bill, modifying Civil Law, which gives the right to form a marriage contract, a fulfillment of an electoral campaign promise.
We recognize today in Spain the rights of same-sex couples to enter in a marriage contract. Before Spain, they allowed this in Belgium, Holland, and, as of two days ago, Canada. We have not been the first, but I sure you that we will not be the last. After us, there will be many more countries motivated, honorable members, by two unstoppable forces: freedom and equality.
It is just a small change to the legal text, adding but a paragraph, in which we establish that marriage will have the same requisites, and the same rights, when the couple is either of different sexes, or the same sex. It is a small change in the letter of the law that creates an immense change in the lives of thousands of our fellow citizens.
We are not legislating, honorable members, for a far away and unknown people. We are extending the opportunity for happiness to our neighbors, co-workers, friends, and our families: at the same time, we are making a more decent society, because a decent society is one that does not humiliate its members.
In the poem “The family” our poet Luis Cernuda lamented:
“How does man live in denial, and how in vain by giving rules that prohibit and condemn.”
Today, Spanish society responds to a group of people that for years have been humiliated, whose rights have been ignored, whose dignity has been offended, and whose identity and freedom has been denied. Today, Spanish society grants them the respect they deserve, recognizes their rights, restores their dignity, affirms their identity, and restores their freedom.
It is true that they are only a minority, but their triumph is everyone’s triumph. It is also a triumph of those who oppose this law, even as they attempt to ignore it, because it is the triumph of freedom. This victory makes all of us a better society.
Honorable members, there is no damage to marriage or to the family in allowing two people of the same sex to get married. Rather, these citizens now have the ability to organize their lives according to marital and familial norms and demands. There is no threat to the institution of marriage, but precisely the opposite: this law recognizes and values marriage.
Aware that some people and institutions profoundly disagree with this legal change, I wish to say that like other reforms to the marriage code that preceded this one, this law will not generate bad results, that its only consequence will be to avoid senseless suffering of human beings. A society that avoids senseless suffering of its citizens is a better society.
In any case, I wish to express my deep respect to those people and institutions, and I also want to ask for the same respect for all of those who approve of this law. To the homosexuals that have personally tolerated the abuse and insults for many years, I ask that you add to the courage you have demonstrated in your struggle for civil rights, an example of generosity and joy with respect to all the beliefs.
With the approval of this Bill, our country takes another step in the path of freedom and tolerance that was started by the democratic Transition. Our children view us with incredulity when we tell them that many years ago, our mothers had less rights than our fathers, or we tell them that people had to stay married against their will, even though they were unable to share their lives. Today we can offer them a beautiful lesson: every obtained right, and liberty has been the result of the struggle and sacrifice of many people of whom we must recognize and be proud.
Today, we demonstrate with this Bill that societies can better themselves, and can cross barriers and create tolerance by putting a stop to humiliation and unhappiness. Today, for many, comes the day evoked by Kavafis a century ago:
“Later was said of the most perfect society, someone else made like me, certainly will come out and act freely.”
— bright futures all around.