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Same-Sex Marriage Passes First Big Hurdle In Spain 
by Malcolm Thornberry 365Gay.com European Bureau Chief

Posted: April 21, 2005 11:02 am ET



(Madrid) Spain's lower house on Thursday passed legislation to legalize same-sex marriage. 

The bill to allow gay marriage was relatively short, saying that "Matrimony shall have the same requisites and effects regardless of whether the persons involved are of the same or different sex''.. It also allows gays to adopt children.

The measure passed with 183 votes in favor, 136 against and six abstentions. It now goes to the Senate where Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialists have ample support.

The Senate will vote in the coming weeks and the first same-sex marriages could begin this summer.

Zapatero announced he would bring in the legislation shortly after his Socialist party's stunning win at the polls last year. (story

It was immediately condemned by the Catholic Church and Zapatero was summoned to Rome for a lecture by Pope John Paul. (story) Nevertheless, Zapatero and his government refused to bow under the pressure.

In an opinion poll on the issue carried out by the government-run Centre for Sociological Investigations last June, 66 per cent of Spaniards favoured legalizing gay marriage, while 26 per cent were opposed.

Homosexuality was banned during Franco's 1939-1975 dictatorship. Spain's liberal 1978 constitution outlawed sexual discrimination and homosexuality was decriminalized shortly afterwards.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Holland and Belgium.  Most other European Union countries have some provision for recognizing those in committed same-sex relationships. In December Britain will open its registry for Civil Unions. 

In North America most of Canada has legalized same-sex marriage and a bill to expand that throughout the country is currently before Parliament.  Massachusetts is the only US state to legalize same-sex marriage, although Civil Unions are legal in Vermont and Connecticut, and several other states including California have domestic partner registries.

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