Spain celebrates the International LGBT+ Pride Day by remembering that we are also celebrating 15 years of same-sex marriage and the enormous progress the Spanish society has made in diversity, respect and security
30 June 2005. After a long journey, the Congress of Deputies approved the law modifying the Civil Code, which standardised marriage between persons of the same sex to marriage between a man and woman.
This incredible milestone in equality, was legalised on 3 July of that same year, Spain became the third country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage for all citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation, just behind the Netherlands (2000) and Belgium (2003), and in the same year as Canada.
Thanks to this law, Spain was the first country to establish equality in regard to adoption between same-sex couples, given that the Law 13/2005 was approved when Dutch law still did not contemplate the adoption of foreign children and Belgian law still did not allow adoption by same-sex marriages. However, on a planet with more than 70 countries that still consider homosexuality illegal, adoption by same-sex marriages remains difficult.
The approval of same-sex marriage in Spain thus became a milestone in the struggle for equal rights of a group that, throughout history, had suffered clear legal and social discrimination. Our country was at the forefront of LGTB+ rights, preceding the States that would follow its example in the coming years and that, despite the time that has passed, it still does not reach even 30 States today. All this, on a planet where homosexuality is still a crime in more than 70 countries and even punishable by death in 6 nations.
The beginning of the journey
The battle for equal rights in Spain began many years ago. The influence brought about by opening up the country to millions of foreign tourists caused the Franco regime to pass the ‘Law on Social Danger and Rehabilitation‘. A modification of the 1954 ‘Vagrants and Criminals Act’, which included penalties of up to five years’ imprisonment or being sent to a psychiatric facility.
Persecution of the LGBT+ collective that became evident, among other examples, with the massive police raid in the Pasaje Begoña in Torremolinos in 1971. A place in Malaga that had become a small oasis of sexual freedom in previous years. More than 300 people were arrested and the Pasaje Begoña -considered the ‘Spanish Stonewall- was closed.
Against this backdrop, the Movimiento Español de Liberación Homosexual, the first association that defended the rights of this group in Spain was set up clandestinely. After Franco’s death it became the Front d’Alliberament Gai de Catalunya and organised the first demonstration to defend the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals. Held on 26 June 1977, days after the first democratic elections, 4,000 people gathered on Barcelona’s Ramblas to demand amnesty for sexual crimes and the repeal of the 1970 law on social danger and rehabilitation.
The year after the demonstration in Barcelona, rallies were also held in Madrid, Bilbao and Seville and the efforts suddenly began to bear fruit. In December 1978, the Council of Ministers chaired by Adolfo Suárez removed homosexuality from the ‘Social Danger and Rehabilitation Act’ and LGBT+ prisoners were released.
In 1983 the law of public scandal, used during the Franco regime to persecute this group, was reformed. In the 80s new associations began to emerge all over Spain. The ‘Social Danger and Rehabilitation Law’ was finally repealed in 1995, when a new Criminal Code was approved, which also included the protection of sexual orientation.
At the end of the nineties, regional governments began to officially recognise unmarried couples. In 2005, this would led to the approval of same-sex marriage in Congress.
One of the most open and diverse societies in the world
The approval of same-sex marriage was a reflection of the social progress and mentality of the Spaniards. Today, Spain can boast being one of the countries with the greatest acceptance of homosexuality, bisexuality and transsexuality in the world.
International reports and studies verify this. Among the most recent is the Eurobarometer on social acceptance of LGBT+ people in the EU, from October 2019, which places Spain among the countries with the greatest integration of diversity. Among others, 89% of Spaniards believe that LGBT+ people should have the same rights as heterosexuals, 3rd EU country (after Sweden and the Netherlands) with the highest percentage of the population considering it (after Sweden and the Netherlands); 86% believe that same-sex marriage should be legalised throughout the European Union (where Spain is in 4th place); and it is the country where the highest percentage of the population believes that transgender people should be able to change their civil documentation to adapt it to their identity (83%). And 81% of the Spanish population would welcome an openly gay, lesbian or bisexual Prime Minister (where we rank 4th).
As for the differences in the perception of LGBT diversity among political spectrums, Spain is the country where both left and right show the greatest acceptance of homosexuality: 98% and 82%, respectively, according to Pew Research Center data published in June 2020.
International focus on freedom and security
The social and legal conditions that have been achieved in Spain have not only offered guarantees to the Spanish population, but have made the country one of the best in Europe for LGBT+ asylum seekers from countries where it is penalised. According to the Rainbow Europe 2020 study by the ILGA association, Spain occupies the 6th position in terms of legislation on the international protection of LGBT+ people among 49 States, only proceded by Malta, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark and Norway.
The legal and social security offered by Spain is also reflected in its worldwide positioning as a tourist destination for millions of LGBT+ people. The World Tourism Organization itself, in its Global Report on LGBT+ Tourism (2012), highlighted Spain’s experience as an example of how legislation in favor of LGBT+ equality had provided a powerful image of openness and respect, leading to an increase in visitors from this group, among others. Our country is also among the top positions in the classifications of safest destinations for LGBT+ people, such as the Gay Travel Index Spartacus and Asher & Lyric, travel websites in which Spain is usually in the top 10.
Key to the security that Spain projects is the vigilance and work that is being carried out to reduce hate crimes especially those related to homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. While in 2013 this typology accounted for 30.56% of hate crimes recorded by the Ministry of Home Affairs, in 2017 it was under 20% and in 2018 –the last publication- it was at 16,2%. In addition, Spain has a prosecutor’s office specialising in hate crimes, as well as an Action Plan to Combat Hate Crimes and a National Office against this type of crime.
International defence of LGBT+ rights
In addition to the freedom and rights achieved within the country, Spain is making efforts to extend them internationally. Among other forums, our country actively participates in the Universal Periodic Review mechanism of the Human Rights Council, raising questions and making recommendations to those countries where violations of the human rights of LGBT+ persons are detected. Spain is also a member of the United Nations LGBT+ Core Group, an informal network of countries, international organisations, NGOs and civil organisations that give visibility and support to the demands and claims of the LGBT+ community within the framework of the UN.
In the European Union, Spain has played a very active role in the process of drafting the EU Guidelines on the rights of LGBT+ people, adopted in 2013. In addition to participating in the European Network of LGBT+ Focal Points. In addition to this, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, EU and Cooperation has been promoting the dissemination and defence of LGBT+ rights, both through its Human Rights Office and the work carried out by the training and cultural centres of the AECID.
- Eurobarometer on social acceptance of LGBT+ people in the EU
- Sexual orientation legislation map – ILGA
- Views on homosexuality around the world (June 2020) – Pew Research Center
- Rainbow Europe 2020 – ILGA
- Global Report on LGBT Tourism – Organización Mundial del Turismo
- Spartacus Gay Travel Index 2020
- Report on the evolution of hate crimes in Spain 2018 – Ministry of Home Affairs
- Action Plan to Combat Hate Crimes