July 01, 2005


When the Spanish parliament yesterday took its historic vote legalizing both gay marriage and adoption of children by gay couples, Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (left) -- who put the Images_22full prestige of his office and party behind passage of the gay human rights legislation -- made probably the most remarkable speech in favor of full equality for those with same-sex hearts ever delivered by a head of government anywhere, in which he quoted two of the most illustrious gay poets in history.  Here are excerpts from Zapatero's speech:

"We are not legislating, honorable members, for people far away and not  known by us.  We are enlarging the opportunity for happiness to our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends and, our families: at the same time  we are making a more decent society, because a decent society is one that does not humiliate its members.                                             
"Luis_cernudaIn the poem 'The Family,' our [gay] poet Luis Cernuda (left) was sorry because, 'How does man live in denial in vain    by giving rules that prohibit and condemn?'

"Today, the Spanish society answers to a group of people who, during many  years have, been humiliated, whose rights have been ignored, whose dignity has been offended, their identity denied, and their liberty oppressed. Today the Spanish society grants them the respect they deserve, recognizes their rights, restores their dignity, affirms their identity, and restores their liberty.

"It is true that they are only a minority, but their triumph is everyone's  triumph.  It is also the triumph of those who oppose this law, even though they do not know this yet: because it is the triumph of Liberty.  Their victory makes all of us (even those who oppose the law) better people, it makes our society better. Honorable members, There is no damage to marriage or to the concept of family in allowing two people of the same sex to get married. To the contrary, what happens is this class of Spanish citizens get the potential to organize their lives with the rights and privileges of marriage and family. There is no danger to the institution of marriage, but precisely the opposite: this law enhances and respects marriage.

"Today, conscious that some people and institutions are in a profound disagreement with this change in our civil law, I wish to Xinsrc_2120602301948437270644express that,  like other reforms to the marriage code that preceded this one, this law will generate no evil, that its only consequence will be the avoiding of senseless suffering of decent human beings. A society that avoids senseless suffering of decent human beings is a better society.

"With the approval of this Bill, our country takes another step in the path of liberty and tolerance that was begun by the democratic change of government.  Our children will look at us incredulously if we tell them that many years ago, our mothers had less rights than our fathers, or if we tell them that people had to stay married against their will even though they were unable to share their lives. Today we can offer them a beautiful lesson: every right gained, each access to liberty has been the result of the struggle and sacrifice of many people that deserve our  recognition and praise.

"Today we demonstrate with this Bill that societies can better themselves and can cross barriers and create tolerance by putting a Images_24 stop to the unhappiness and humiliation of some of our citizens.  Today, for many of our countrymen, comes the day predicted by Kavafis [the great Greek gay poet, left ] one century ago:

'Later 'twas said of the most perfect society/someone else, made like me/certainly will come out and act freely.' "

Thanks to valiant gay journalist Rex Wockner for providing this translation.

UPDATE, jULY 9: I just watched on C-SPAN a tape of the vote in the Cortes (the Spanish parliament on the gay marriage and adoption bill, including part of the debate, Zapatero's speech, and the approval of the bill by a 40-vote majority. Just before the vote, the chamber's president asked the gallery -- crammed with gays and lesbians -- to refrain from cheering or hissing when the vote was announced (depending on which way it went, although the result was not in doubt). Naturally, when the bill passed, the queers in the gallery couldn't restrain their joy at this extraordinary event, and the chamber's president, as he'd warned he'd do, ordered them out of the gallery. Then, a remarkable thing happened -- Zapatero and the Socialist deputies rose and gave a sustained standing ovation to the gays and lesbians as they left. It was a stunning tribute to the homosexuals' sacrifice, courage, and refusal to accept less than full equality before the law -- a recognition that this was their victory. I've seen many parliaments in operation in many parts of the world at times of crucial debate -- but I've never, ever seen the parliamentarians applaud the gallery. I'm a tough-minded old cynic, but to see the Spanish parliamentarians give lesbians and gays the standing ovation we so richly deserved actually made my eyes rather moist.

MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR JEAN O'LEARY: For anyone interested in attending the memorial service for the lesbian and gay leader Jean O'Leary, Jean_oleary_3 our friend who died last month, it will be held in Los Angeles on Sunday, July 24, at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center at The Village
Renberg Theater, 1125 N. McCadden Place. (for more information and directions, click on  http://www.laglc.org. )

BUSHIES BUY ANTI-GAY FOOTAGE FOR LINCOLN MEMORIAL VIDEO:  On the same day as Spain's historic gay marriage vote, the Associated Press reported yesterdayImages_23  that "The National Park Service sought out footage of `conservative - right-wing demonstrations' to revise the video shown to visitors at the Lincoln Memorial after being pressured by conservatives who complained the display implied Abraham Lincoln supported abortion, homosexuality and liberal causes.

"Park Service documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show officials purchased video of President Bush, pro-gun advocates and pro-Iraq war rallies and also considered removing images of Democratic former President Clinton at the memorial...." A video version of this story is available by clicking here.

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