TV & Radio
July 5, 2005
First Gay Couples Apply for Marriage Under New Spanish Law
By RENWICK McLEAN - New York Times
MADRID, July 4 - When Ramón Vizcaíno and Luis Ibarcena tried to apply for a marriage license here two months ago, they caused a minor scandal.
Confusing news reports had led them to believe that Spain had legalized gay marriage, they said, when, in fact, it had only passed a preliminary vote in Parliament.
"The people there were very surprised to see two men asking about marriage," said Mr. Vizcaíno, a 38-year-old security guard. "They looked at us like we were crazy."
But on Monday, the baffled faces and dismissive tones gave way to smiles and handshakes, as the men became one of the first gay couples to seek government authorization to wed under Spain's new marriage law, which took effect on Sunday.
"This means we are no longer second-class citizens," Mr. Vizcaíno said in an interview Monday. "We have always had the same obligations as other citizens. We deserve the same rights, too."
The lines inside the Madrid Civil Registry, where capital residents apply for marriage licenses, swelled with gay and lesbian couples for the first time on Monday, four days after Parliament passed a law giving same-sex couples across Spain the right to marry and to adopt children.
The vote makes Spain the first nation to remove all legal distinctions between same-sex and heterosexual unions, say advocates for marriage rights for gay couples. Belgium, Canada and the Netherlands have also legalized gay marriage, but only Canada's laws, which do not yet apply to all of the country, contain language as liberal as Spain's.
Near the close of business on Monday, Boti G. Rodrigo, an official at the registry, said that only four gay couples had formally applied for marriage licenses but that many more had come seeking information about the process.
"We expect that the number of same-sex couples will be disproportionately high for weeks, if not months to come," she said.
Ms. Rodrigo said that most of the couples requesting information on Monday had been together for years.
Parliament's decision to legalize gay marriage has provoked tremendous animosity among religious conservatives in Spain, a predominantly Roman Catholic country.
In a speech before Pope Benedict XVI in Rome on Monday, the archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, condemned the law, saying it was evidence of a society in which "not only is faith denied, but also human reason itself."
Ricardo Blázquez, the president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops, also denounced the law on Monday, saying at a news conference near Madrid that it "throws moral and human order into confusion."
Many of the gay couples interviewed on Monday said they had grown up in Catholic households but were no longer practicing Catholics, in part because of the church's opposition to gay marriage. But Mr. Ibarcena, 32, the partner of Mr. Vizcaíno and also a security guard, said he still attended church regularly.
"I stand up and challenge them when they say things that are anti-gay," he said. "I haven't given up on them yet."