SEVILLE, Spain – Spanish people have been identified by the Vatican as some of the more virtuous and orthodox followers of the Catholic church, a fierce opponent to equal rights for homosexuals.
But during the 1990s, city councils and autonomous communities across Spain began to allow civil unions for homosexuals. Then, at his inauguration, Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero promised a government plan to extend marriage rights to same-sex individuals.
The bill was proposed on June 30, 2004, and passed on June 30, 2005, with 187 “yes” votes and 147 “no” votes. Spain became the third country in the world to formally legalize same-sex marriage nationwide, after the Netherlands and Belgium.
Until this point, single people could adopt children under Spanish law, and therefore same-sex couples could undertake a de facto adoption. But if the relationship ended or the legal parent died, the other partner had no legal rights.
In lesbian marriages, if children were born, the non-biological mother was not legally regarded as a parent and still had to undergo the lengthy financial process of adoption.
On Nov. 7, 2006, the legal flaw on assisted reproduction was amended, allowing non-biological mothers to be regarded as a parent alongside a female spouse.
“My partner and I wanted a child, very badly, but I wasn’t able to get pregnant. She was, and did, but when Rosa was born, I didn’t have any parental rights,” said Maria Ramirez Louis, who is now married and has full guardianship. “If we were to have separated, my partner would have gotten Rosa, and I wouldn’t have had a chance.
“We raised her equally. We were both ‘mama’ to her, but I had no legal rights. If I had any doubt about our relationship, it would have been a very scary thing.”
Although a poll performed by the government-run Center for Sociological Investigations in April 2005 reported that 66 percent of Spaniards favored legalizing same-sex marriage, reactions to the law were heated and fierce.
Catholic authority Cardinal Lopez Trujillo claimed the church was making an urgent call for freedom of conscience for Catholics, and he called on every profession linked with implementing same-sex marriage to oppose it, even if it meant losing a job.
This drastic defiance of the Catholic church by Spain could be a clear indication of the waning influence the church has over people and countries.
Sociologists have claimed that three-quarters of Spaniards believe the church hierarchy is out of touch with social reality and credit some of the decline to the death of dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975.
“I think that sometimes people don’t take the church seriously when it calls for such strict policies,” said Juan Pablo Martin, married since 2006. “We don’t think they understand, and we don’t believe that God condemns gays, or that marriage necessarily even has to be religious – only legal.”
Many Spaniards simply believe the church is losing strength because people don’t have as much time for religion, and social growth has made some of the church’s policies impractical and outdated.
IU student Alex Narang, who is studying in Seville currently, has observed this trend.
“It’s interesting how Spain is known for being so Catholic, but it’s more of a traditional thing than a practicing matter,” he said.
It’s clear that the Catholic Church is losing its stronghold over Spaniards, but is it because Spaniards are losing their faith, or are they simply growing with modern times of diversity and personal freedoms?
This is a question for Spaniards to ask themselves.
Americans must now ask: If the once-proclaimed “most Catholic country in Europe” has legalized same-sex marriage and adoption, are we behind the times?