Translation of the Spanish Prime Minister’s speech

Posted on 07/02/2005. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Today, my government submits definitively for the approval of the Chamber this proposed law which modifies the Civil Code in the matter of the right to contract matrimony in strict fulfillment of a political promise made to our citizens and to this Chamber.

Today in Spain, we recognize the right of all people to enter into a contract of matrimony with others of their same sex. Before us, Belgium and the Netherlands did this, and, the day before yesterday, this right was recognized by Canada. We have not been the first, but I am quite sure that we will not be the last country to do this. After us will come many other countries compelled, Ladies and Gentlemen, by two unstoppable forces: liberty and equality.

This deals with a small change in the text of the law: it adds merely a simple paragraph in which it is established that matrimony shall have the same prerequisites and the same effects whether the contracting parties happen to be of the same or of different sexes; a small change in the letter of the law that will produce an immense change in the lives of thousands of our countrymen.

We are not legislating, Ladies and Gentlemen, for remote or foreign people. We are expanding the opportunities for happiness of our neighbors, of our fellow employees at work, of our friends and of our relatives, and, at the same time, we are building a more decent country, because a decent nation is one which does not mistreat its members.

In a poem entitled “The Family”, our own Luis Cernuda lamented: “How man deceives himself and still in vain/ Passing rules which prohibit and condemn.”

Today, Spanish society gives a response to a group of people who have been humiliated for many years, whose rights have been ignored, whose dignity has been offended, their identity denied and their liberty marginalized. Today, Spanish society returns to them the respect which 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 the triumph of all. Also, although they will wish to ignore it, it is the triumph of those who would oppose this law, because it is the triumph of liberty itself. Liberty’s victory makes all of us into better people and makes our society a better society.

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is not a single threat to matrimony nor to the family in the possibility that two people of the same sex might marry. On the contrary, there is cause to realize the right that these people have to order their lives by meeting the norms and demands of matrimony and of the family. There is not a diminishment of the institution of matrimony, but, actually, the opposite: a valuation and recognition of matrimony.

I am conscious that some people and institutions are in deep disagreement with this legal change. I wish to tell them that, like other reforms which have preceded this one, this law will not produce any wrong, that its only consequence shall be to save human beings from needless suffering. And, a society which saves its members from needless suffering is a better society.

In any event, I express my profound respect to these people and institutions, and I wish to further ask that those who support this law show the same respect. For homosexuals, who have for years borne the scorn and affront of others with their own flesh, I ask them that the courage demonstrated in the battle for their rights now be summed up by providing an example of generosity and that they express their happiness with respect for others with differing beliefs.

With the approval of this proposed law, our country will take a further step on the road of liberty and tolerance that was initiated by our restoration to democracy. Our children of today will look at us incredulously when we tell them that it was not so long ago that their mothers had less rights than their fathers and also when we tell them that people were expected to remain united in matrimony, irrespective of their desires, even thought they were no longer capable of living together. Today, we can offer them a beautiful lesson: each right established, each liberty acheived has been the fruit of the effort and sacrifice of many peope that we recognize with great pride on this day.

Today, we demonstrate with this law that societies can make themselves better and that they themselves can broaden the frontiers of tolerance and diminish the realm of humiliation and unhappiness. Today, for many, the day arrives that Kavafis evoked over a century ago:

“In the most perfect society, another, made much as I, shall certainly succeed and act in total freedom.”

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