The Spanish Prime Minister…
José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the Spanish PM, gave a rousing speech in defense of the rights of gay and lesbian Spaniards yesterday. I’m going to put it in an “extended entry,” so you’ll have to click through to keep reading it. It’s long, it’s impassioned, he speaks in complete sentences, he quotes poets - can you imagine an American president making a similar speech? No, you cannot.
Two interesting points: He tells opponents of gay marriage that this is a victory for them too, although they don’t realize it yet. (Why? Because we all win when liberty triumphs.) He wags his finger in the faces of Spanish homos, telling them to be gracious in victory and respectful of the feelings and sensibilities of the opponents. (“To the homosexuals that have tolerated personally the abuse and insults for many years, I ask of you that the courage you have demonstrated in your struggle for your civil rights will contribute now an example of generosity and express your happiness with respect to those who think different that you.”) It’s a tremendously moving speech, if a rough translation.
Today my government submits the definitive approval of the Senate the Bill by which the Civil Law is modified on the matter of the right to form a marriage contract in an effort to comply with a promised made to our citizens in our electoral campaign.
We recognize today in Spain the rights of same sex couples to enter in a marriage contract. Before Spain; Belgium, Holland, and two days ago Canada, did the same. We have not been the first, but I am sure that we will not be the last. After us there will be many more countries motivated, honorable members, by two unstoppable forces: Liberty and Equality.
It is nothing more than a small change to the legal text that adds but a paragraph in which we establish that marriage will have the same requisites and the same rights when the couple is either of different sexes or the same sex. It is a very small change in the letter that creates an immense change in the lives of thousands of our citizens.
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.
In the poem "The family" our poet Luis Ceruda was sorry because "how does man lives in denial in vane/by giving rules that prohibit and condemn."
Today, the Spanish society answers to a group of people that 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 danger 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 these set 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.
I wish to express my profound respect to those people and institutions (that oppose this law), and I also want to ask for the same respect for all of those who approve of this law. To the homosexuals that have tolerated personally the abuse and insults for many years, I ask of you that the courage you have demonstrated in your struggle for your civil rights will contribute now an example of generosity and express your happiness with respect to those who think different that you.
With the approval of this Bill, our country takes another step in the path of liberty and tolerance that was stated by the democratic change of government. Our children will see us with incredibility if we tell them that many year 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 stop to the unhappiness and humiliation of some of our citizens. Today, for many of our countrymen, comes the day predicted by Kavafis one century ago: "Later was said of the most perfect society/someone else, made like me/certainly will come out and act freely."