In the 1970’s in Spain who could have imagined, that in the following decades the country was going to move forward in leaps and bounds in terms of equality and LGBTI rights. From the first Gay Pride demonstration in Barcelona in 1977 to the celebration of world LGBTI Pride in Madrid in 2017, through to the liberating freedom of the Movida Madrileña, songs such as Mujer contra mujer by Mecano, the increasing presence of the LGBTI community in the media and the approval of homosexual marriage in 2005, Spain has gone from legally pursuing homosexuality to being a country of reference in LGBTI rights in just over four decades.

Although a lot of progress has been made there is still a long way to go in order to achieve real and lasting equality. However, Spain has established itself as one of the safest countries in the world and one of the most tolerant in terms of accepting diverse sexual identities.

Pioneers in homosexual marriage and same-sex adoption

On July 3, 2005, the amendment of the Civil Code was approved by the Spanish Courts, whereby marriage between persons of the same sex was completely homologated to that of different sexes. Spain thus became the third country in the world to legalize equal 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.

One of the most accepting countries

The approval of homosexual marriage was a reflection of the social progress and mentality of the Spaniards. In 2013, the Pew Research Center, one of the most important public opinion studies in the world, classified Spain as the country with the greatest acceptance of homosexuality. The Global Divide on Homosexuality report, revealed that 88% of Spaniards considered that homosexuality should be accepted by society, while 11% of Spaniards considered that it should not. The percentage of people opposed to the acceptance of homosexuality was reduced to 7% in 2018, according to the article Eastern and Western Europeans Differ on Importance of Religion, Views of Minorities, and Key Social Issues, also by the Pew Research Center, placing us as the second country with the least opposition to homosexual marriage, just behind Sweden (5%).

The social and legal conditions reached in Spain have not only offered guarantees to the Spanish population, but have made the country one of the best in Europe for LGBTI asylum seekers from countries where it is penalized. According to the Rainbow Europe 2019 study by the ILGA association, Spain occupies the 6th position in terms of legislation on the international protection of LGBTI people among 49 States.

Prosecution of hate crimes

While much work remains to be done, Spain has also made progress in prosecuting hate crimes, especially those related to homophobia, biphobia or transphobia. While in 2013 this typology accounted for 30.56% of hate crimes recorded by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, in 2017 the percentage did not reach 20%. 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.

Despite the progress made in recent decades and the improvement of LGBTI freedoms and rights in our country, there are still aggressive incidents based on sexual identity; there are still too many cases of discrimination in the workplace – especially against transgender people; and, from some social sectors, homosexuality, bisexuality and transgender sexuality continues to be considered a problem that can be corrected. Pride movements are becoming increasingly common in Spanish cities and towns to celebrate the progress that has been made and also to vindicate what still needs to be done. Society as a whole is responsible for working together in order to make this happen.