On June 29, 2005, Spain became the fourth nation in the world to offer legal marriage to same-sex couples.
Historical Events of Note
The Spanish Congress of Deputies passed the measure by a 187-147 vote, with four abstentions. The bill, part of the ruling Socialists’ aggressive agenda for social reform, also lets same-sex couples adopt children, and inherit each others’ property.
While the Senate, where conservatives hold the largest number of seats, rejected the bill the week before the vote for marriage, the Senate is only an advisory body. Final say on legislation rests with the Congress of Deputies.
The new law states:
“Matrimony shall have the same requirements and effects regardless of whether the persons involved are of the same or different sex.”
Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero told the chamber before the vote:
“We were not the first, but I am sure we will not be the last. After us will come many other countries, driven, ladies and gentlemen, by two unstoppable forces: freedom and equality.”
Zapatero said the reform of Spain’s legal code simply adds one dry paragraph, however, it means much, much more. He called it:
“ … a small change in wording that means an immense change in the lives of thousands of citizens. We are not legislating, ladies and gentlemen, for remote unknown people. We are expanding opportunities for the happiness of our neighbors, our work colleagues, our friends, our relatives.”
[For Zapatero’s full speech, please see our article:
Today Spanish society is giving an answer to a group of people who for years have been humiliated, whose rights have been ignored, whose dignity has been offended.”
Freedom and Equality / La Libertad y La Igualdad]
Zapatero lacked a majority in the chamber, but got help from small regionally based parties that tend to be his allies.
When the bill was first announced, the Roman Catholic Church launched a barrage of written and demonstration protests. They continue to rail against granting equal treatment to same-sex couples.
Late in 2004, Antonio Martinez Camino, spokesman for the Spanish Bishops Conference, said that allowing same-sex marriage was like “imposing a virus on society. Something false that will have negative consequences for social life.”
Pope Benedict has condemned gay marriage as an expression of “anarchic freedom,” and his predecessor, John Paul, had urged Spain to remember its Catholic roots.
However, a survey released in May 2005 by pollster Instituto Opina stated that 62 percent of Spaniards supported the government’s action, and only 30 percent opposed it. The poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points. The survey showed Spaniards about evenly split over whether same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt children.
In June 2005, a court in the northeastern Catalonia region had ruled that a Spanish man could not wed his Indian partner because India does not allow same-sex marriage. However, on August 8, the official government registry, the Boletin Oficial del Estado, published a ruling by Spain’s justice ministry that the marriage law allows same-sex marriage to a foreigner regardless of whether that person’s homeland recognizes the partnership.
Numbers of Marriages
During the first six months — since June 2005 when same-sex marriage were offered — 425 same-sex couples from all over the country were married.
The first same-sex couple to marry was Emilio Menendez and Carlos Baturin, who had been together for 30 years.
Carlos Baturin said in a Reuters report, July 6, 2006:
“We are a family, we feel like a family, the public accepts us as a family. If (the Catholic Church) specifically wants to exclude us, well then I don’t want to go their party.”
“I’m not surprised they don’t see us as a family but it’s just a question of time. The Church is very, very, very slow: four, five, six centuries behind. There are many different types of family. What defines a family is not my sex, my color, or anything but rather the desire to stay together, to love each other.”
Asked what he would say to the Pope if he were granted an audience, Menendez said:
“Christ said the most important commandment was to love each other.
In the summer of 2005, a member of the Civil Guard, a quasi-police force that reports to the Interior Ministry, married his lifelong, same-sex partner and both were allowed to live in his barracks.
By July 2006, 4,500 same-sex couples married. 50 of these couples applied for adoption, and three filed for divorce, according to the Spanish gay, lesbian and transsexual organization FELGT.
In a poll released on April 21, 2006, 61 percent agree with the government’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage. The poll was conducted by Instituto Opina and released by Cadena Ser.
On September 15, 2006, two male air force privates were wed in Seville, Spain, the first known marriage of two Spanish military servicemen. The two grooms, both named Alberto, received permission to wear their military uniforms during the wedding, but in the end decided against it to avoid antagonizing those who oppose the union.
Said one of the grooms:
“We know we are in the armed forces and this is touchy because we are not gardeners, but rather soldiers. I know there are superior officers who will make life difficult for me, and they are already doing so.”.
The grooms were married by Seville Mayor Alfredo Sanchez Monteseirin at town hall. The mayor
is a member of the ruling Socialist party, which legalized same-sex marriage and has pushed through other liberal laws including fast-track divorce, and allowing for medically assisted
fertilization. The laws have irked the Roman Catholic church and the country’s conservative establishment, which has accused the government of tearing away at the nation’s “traditional” values. But the wedding has barely caused a ripple of controversy in Spanish society. Unlike the United States, Spain has no law against homosexuals serving in the military.
A 2008 study found that 66 percent of Spaniards approve of the marriage law.
In its first three years, more than 12,000 same-sex marriages were celebrated.
Foreigner Marriage Restrictions
To have be legally married in Spain, at least one of the marriage partners must have been resident for at least two years and hold a residency card.
Spain allows for a civil or religious marriage process. The rules are the same except the religions add more paperwork and various permissions. Since the major religion in Spain is Catholic, this church would likely be disinclined to offer a ceremony for same-sex couples.
- All documentation must be submitted in Spanish and translation from English must be done by an approved translator.
- An application form can be obtained from the Civil Registry or District Court in the area in which the wedding will take place.
- It must be signed by both both parties, and contains full names, occupations, places of residence, and the citizenship of the couple and their parents.
- Sent with the completed application form:
- Birth Certificates for both parties:
- Original long form certificate required, not a copy.
- For those not born in Spain, the certificates must be have an “apostille,” an official seal verifying a document for use outside its country of origin.
- Proof of Freedom to Marry
Called “Fe de Solteria y Vida.” Registry offices have a document for this purpose that can be signed when you present the rest of the documents, or you can use a Certificate of Nulla Osta (translated and with an apostille).
- Certificate of Residence.
If you are a legal resident you can obtain a residency card at no charge from the Tenencia de Alcaldía in the district where you live.
- In the case of a divorced persons a copy of your Decree Absolute.
- In the case of widowed person:
- Certificate of your first marriage
- Death certificate of deceased spouse
- Parental consent to marry if under 18
- After the judge has accepted all the documentation required, banns are posted for a period of fifteen days prior to the marriage ceremony.
- A Licence to marry will be issued by the Office of the Registrar in the region where the application was made once the period of the Banns has passed.
- After the ceremony is performed, the marriage is recorded in the Civil Registry and a Spanish marriage certificate is issued.
While many countries offer some kind of domestic partnership status — and many mistakenly refer to it as marriage — they do not have complete equality in legal, economic, and social stature unless they offer full legal marriage.