Connect to share and comment

Holding hands in public

Four years after Spain legalized gay marriage, gay couples say mainstream attitudes have changed.

While homosexual weddings grew 11 percent last year (3,549 celebrations), heterosexual ones decreased by more than 4 percent (193,064), according to data provided by the National Institute of Statistics. More than 12,300 homosexual weddings have been held since the law came into effect.

“Apocalyptical predictions warning gay marriage would put an end to the traditional family have proven wrong,” said Antonio Poveda, president of FELGTB, the Spanish Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals, and Bisexuals.

HazteOir — which means “make yourself heard” — is a citizens’ movement that opposes gay marriage. Ignacio Arsuaga, its president, thinks the law equating marriage between a man and a woman with a same-sex marriage leaves matrimony unprotected. “Heterosexual marriages provide something very positive to society, while homosexual ones do not, because they cannot create life,” he explained.

Therein lies one of the remaining difficulties. Under the new law, gay and lesbian couples are allowed to adopt in Spain and the law affords protection to both parents. Lesbian couples can opt for artificial insemination, or adoption, if they want kids. Prior to the law, however, if something happened to the legal parent, the parent's partner had no legal rights regarding the child.

But problems arise in international adoptions, as many countries are reluctant to allow adoption of children by gay couples. And even in Spain, public opinion has not moved significantly on the question since the legislation was enacted.

Surveys show that about half of the population favors adoption of children by homosexual couples (compared with the two-thirds who support gay marriage), a figure that has not changed significantly since 2004.

But still, it's better than it was, said Jesus Santos, 37, a naval engineer who works for an American multinational and has a 7-year-old son with his husband, David.

Santos, who is the president of Galehi, an association of gay and lesbian families with children, thinks the law has empowered gays by making them more visible and creating "positive models" that go beyond stereotypes. Society no longer thinks of “crazy queens having children,” he said.

And compensation for those like Antonio Ruiz is imminent. Names of the laws that sent them to prison illustrate how Spain has changed since: "Law against the Lazy and Delinquent" and "Law of Dangerousness and Social Rehabilitation."

Read more on Spain:

The Spanish military's makeover

Spain's iconic beach bars face demolition

Spain's jellyfish invasion