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Gay Marriage to Be Legal in Spain on Sun.
By DANIEL WOOLLS, Associated Press Writer
Sat Jul 2,11:43 AM ET
The law legalizing gay marriage in Spain has cleared its last bureaucratic formality -- being published in an official government registry -- and will take effect on Sunday.
An official of the ruling Socialist party, which sponsored the law, said the party will now seek legislation to protect Spain's estimated 8,000 transsexuals.
The gay marriage law, passed Thursday by the lower house of parliament, was published Saturday in the gazette, the Boletin Oficial del Estado, which records all government decisions in Spain. The document specified that the new law will go into effect Sunday.
The law was signed by King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
Gay couples are not expected to start getting married until late this month because of the paperwork needed before they go to town halls and other civil bodies that marry people in Spain, according to Spain's main federation of gays and lesbians.
The law gives same-sex couples the right to wed, adopt children and inherit each other's property, making their legal status the same as that of heterosexual couples.
Gay and lesbian groups planned a big street rally for Saturday evening in Madrid to celebrate passage of the law, which makes Spain the third country in the world to grant full recognition to gay marriage. The others are the Netherlands and Belgium. Canada is expected to follow suit later this month.
Several European countries and a few U.S. states recognize civil unions among same-sex couples but this falls short of treating them like married couples.
Fierce criticism of the law from the Catholic church continued, with the head of the Spanish Bishops Conference, Bishop Ricardo Blazquez, branding it unconstitutional.
Speaking on Vatican radio Friday, he said called the law's passage "a sad day for the Spanish people because the stability of marriage has been gravely injured and tremendous confusion over marriage and family has been unleashed."
Meanwhile Pedro Zerolo, a Madrid town councilor who is gay and heads the Socialist party's social policy department, said Friday that when parliament reconvenes after its summer recess the government will present a bill that aims to regulate treatment of transsexuals. There is no such law now.
It will address such issues as recognizing gender and name-changes of people who say their true gender is not the one they were born with, Zerolo said.
A draft of the bill states that such persons will not have to undergo complete genital-change surgery and will only need a certificate from a psychologist, Zerolo said Friday.
One issue that has not been settled is whether the government will pay for sex-change operations.
Such funding was a plank in the Socialist party platform for the March 2004 general election that the party won. But the government has to negotiate this with regional governments who are responsible for state-paid health care in Spain.
An organization of Spanish transsexuals, Transexualia, says there are about 8,000 transsexuals in Spain.
(Photo) A drag queen takes part in a street party, on the day Spain's parliament legalized same-sex marriages, in Chueca, Madrid's gay area, June 30, 2005. Spain is the latest country to legalize same-sex marriages on Thursday, drawing a stinging rebuke from Spain's powerful Catholic church which urged the faithful to oppose the law 'by all legitimate means'. Picture taken June 30, 2005. Photo by Andrea Comas/Reuters
Sat Jul 2, 2005 9:08 PM BST
By Daniel Flynn
MADRID (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of people paraded through Madrid on Saturday in Spain's largest annual gay pride march, celebrating a decision to legalise gay marriage which comes into force this weekend.
Waving rainbow flags and behind a banner reading "We Go Forward, Now For Transsexuals", gays and lesbians danced in the sun following parliament's decision on Thursday to approve a law giving same-sex marriages the same status as heterosexual ones.
"I am here to support the march and to celebrate what we have achieved," said Rafael Hernandez, 35, a nurse. "There is still some discrimination in Spain, but now it is less."
Several banners attacked Spain's powerful Roman Catholic Church, which had strongly opposed a law it said could harm the fabric of society. "Vatican = Inquisition" read one, while other said "Stop Homophobia. Secular Society Now".
Many marchers wore badges or waved flags in support of Spain's ruling Socialist Party which pushed through the law despite fierce criticism from the centre-right Popular Party.
"Thanks to the Socialists. They have made our dream reality," said one organiser via loudspeaker, to applause from the crowd.
The law takes effect from Sunday, making Spain only the fourth country in the world to have legalised same-sex marriages after the Netherlands, Belgium and Canada.
Gay rights groups do not expect the first marriage to take place for several weeks, due to the bureaucracy involved.
Drenched but delighted party-goers danced under a rainbow as Madrid firemen doused marchers with high pressure hoses from atop a red fire engine, creating a sparkling version of the gay pride symbol.
"This is a first step by the Spanish government to end differences. In Portugal, we are still a long way from achieving this," said Nuno Lomba, 32, who travelled from Lisbon.
"But I would not get married myself. I don't need a piece of paper to tell me I love someone," he said.
Regional flags from around Spain peppered the crowd, which organisers said totalled more than 1 million people.
State radio put the figure at hundreds of thousands, while police estimated 97,000 people took part in the march itself.
With a carnival atmosphere Madrid's streets, revellers bounced a giant inflatable penis above the crowd.
Several marchers dressed as nuns to mock the Spanish Catholic Church, which called on the faithful this week to oppose the law "by all legitimate means".
The reform, which opinion polls suggest had the support of 70 percent of Spaniards, gives same-sex unions the same status as heterosexual ones, including adoption and inheritance rights.
The Socialists' liberal agenda is a major break with the past: Spain was ruled from 1939-1975 by Catholic nationalist dictator Francisco Franco who banned homosexuality and divorce.