by Rex Wockner
Now there are four. Spain and Canada last week joined the Netherlands and Belgium in extending full marriage rights to same-sex couples.
Following rowdy debate, Canada’s House of Commons voted 158 to 133 on June 28 to legalize full marriage for same-sex couples nationwide.
Courts already had forced legalization of same-sex marriage in nine of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories – everywhere but Alberta, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Prince Edward Island.
The measure now moves to the Senate, where quick and easy passage is expected.
“[This] is about the Charter of Rights,” said Prime Minister Paul Martin. “In a nation of minorities, it is important that you don’t cherry-pick rights. A right is a right.”
“It’s about the right to love,” gay Bloc Québécois MP Réal Ménard told The New York Times. “When you are in love, things are different, and everyone is entitled to that.”
Foreign couples are welcome to marry in Canada, and only Quebec has any kind of waiting period.
Spain legalized marriage for same-sex couples June 30. The vote in the Congress of Deputies was 187 to 147 with four abstentions.
The Senate had rejected the bill, but it is the Congress that has final say.
Gay couples were allowed to begin the process of getting married on July 3, when the law change was published in the Boletín Oficial del Estado.
Hundreds of thousands of people celebrated at Madrid’s gay-pride parade July 2.
“Today, Spanish society is responding to a group of people who for years have been humiliated, whose rights have been ignored, their dignity offended, their identity denied and their freedom restricted,” Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero said June 30. “Today Spanish society grants them the respect they deserve, recognizes their rights, restores their dignity, affirms their identity and restores their liberty.
“We are not the first [country to do this] but I am sure we will not be the last,” he said. “After us will come many other countries, driven, ladies and gentlemen, by two unstoppable forces: freedom and equality.
“[This is] 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 people who are far away and unknown to us. We are expanding opportunities for the happiness of our neighbors, our work colleagues, our friends, our relatives.
“It is true that [gays] are only a minority but their triumph is a triumph for everybody. … Their victory makes us all better, makes our society better.”
Gay campaigners were elated.
“Finally, gays and lesbians are no longer second-class citizens,” said the Spanish COLEGAS Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals. “We pridefully see ourselves as citizens of this great nation that is Spain where liberty and equality have triumphed at last.
“Gays and lesbians are now going to take a well-deserved rest after these past several months of suffering being viewed as strange animals – and having ourselves and our families observed under a magnifying glass,” the group said.
The European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association called the law’s passage a blow to the Roman Catholic Church.
“Spain proved that it is a modern and outward-looking society and there is no reason or justification for discriminating against LGBT people,” said Executive Director Patricia Prendiville. “It has also proved that even strong Roman Catholic roots and heritage is not a barrier for building an inclusive and equal society. We believe the Spanish marriage victory will have a significant positive impact in other European countries where religious arguments are used to oppose the legal recognition for same-sex partners.”
by Rex Wockner