LGBT History in Spain
Today, Spain is seen as one of the most accepting nations when it comes to the LGBT community. However, it has not always been so glorious for queer people in Spain. Spain had to go through rule of the Catholic church, the Second Republic, and dictator Francisco Franco before it was able to become the accepting, diverse nation it is today.
When Romans walked the land of Spain, under the Roman empire, homosexuality was was quite common. Romans were much more open minded, bisexuality was even seen as ideal for them. Its proven that men often married one another by a law in the “Theodosian Code” (Revolvy). Soon after this, the Catholic Church begin to have an influence over Spain. It even made sodomy an act punishable by the law (Homosexuality).
This all occurred until the “Age of Enlightenment”, when many new ideas were brought to the surface. There were many scientific, philosophic, and political advances. Many people started to recognize individual rights and freedoms. In 1882, sodomy was decriminalized (Homosexuality).
The Age of Enlightenment lead to the establishment of a new government called the “Second Republic”. After the king of Spain, Alfonso XIII, fled the country, this new government was put into place. The Second Republic had much more liberal beliefs than the previous government. A Constitution was even created that established “Freedom of speech, freedom of association, extended voting privileges to women, allowed divorce, and stripped Spanish nobility of special legal status” (Homosexuality). The Catholic Church began to lose its power and influence on the public. Between 1931 and 1939, homosexuality was viewed positively by a majority of Spain (Timeline).
Unfortunately, in 1939, after the Spanish civil war, dictator Fransisco Franco came to power. Franco had extremely conservative views. In an effort to try and revert Spain to how it was before the Second Republic, he abolished laws of divorce and abortion. He also restored power to the Catholic Church and declared Catholicism as the official religion of Spain. Under his regime, homosexuality was unacceptable and dangerous (Homosexuality).
In 1954, Franco passed the Vagrancy Act. This act made being gay a criminal offense. Many openly gay people, largely men, were sent to jail because of this. Here, they faced large amounts of mental and physical abuse. Because of this, many were forced to hide their sexuality on order to remain safe (Homosexuality).
Franco’s extreme repression toward the LGBT community did not end with the Vagrancy Act. In 1971, the Law of Dangerousness and Social Rehabilitation was passed. This law defined homosexuality as a mental illness. Many queer people were then sent to prisons or correctional camps. The correctional camps were used to “cure” thousands of homosexuals in an effort to revert them to “normal” ways of thinking. The more prominent affect, however, was that many gay people experienced psychological and physical torture (Homosexuality).
The first organization to defend the gay and lesbian rights, AGHOIS, in Spain was founded in Barcelona in1970. Unfortunately, this organization did not last very long due to actions demanded from the police. They had to cancel their weekly meetings, which addressed how to deal with the problems that gay people face, and were unable to resume until after Franco’s death (Gay).
After Franco’s death in 1975, Spain got a new leader, Prime Minister Adolfo Suares Gonzalez. Gonzales reinforced many new reforms. Free election and freedom of religion were put back into place. This was the start of a brighter future for those in Spain during their transition (Homosexuality).
At this time, although homosexuality was still considered illegal, under the administration of Gonzalez, the first gay pride demonstration was held in Barcelona in 1977. The FAGC, Catalan Front for the Gay Liberation, lead the gay movement after Franco’s regime and are responsible for organization of Spain’s first gay pride demonstration. Over 4,000 people, including homosexuals, transsexuals, and allies participated. Although the event was quickly shut down by police, the act still made a large, empowering, impact. The FAGC’s goal was to end to harassment and repression of the LGBT communities suffering (Gay).
In 1979, homosexuality was decriminalized and all of those imprisoned for being gay were released. Queer people could no longer be sent to prison for simply preferring someone of the same gender. Although homosexuality was still highly stigmatized by society, this action was a good step in the progressive direction (Homosexuality).
2005 was a very successful year for the LGBT community in Spain. The Spanish Parliament voted to make gay marriage and adoption of children by LGBT people legal. Prime Minister at the time, Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero, supported the act despite prevalent homophobia among older generations. On July 11th, twelve days after the law was passed, the first gay marriage occurred in Madrid between two men (Homosexuality).
Spain is home of some of the most progressive laws that regard issues of the LGBT community (Envisioning). Some examples being same sex marriage, same sex adoption, allowing transgender individuals to change their legal gender expression, banning discrimination regarding sexuality and gender, allowing gay people to openly serve in the military, and allowing them donate blood (Revolvy).
Before the acts in 2005 were passed, around 500,000, mainly Catholic, Spanish citizens protested. They believed that gay marriage would ruin the sanctity of heterosexual marriage and that adoption of a child by a homosexual couple would result in bullying of the child in school. Also, in 2012, Spain’s constitutional court wanted to overturn the passage of the 2005 law. Fortunately, the law was never overturned and to this day gay marriage and adoption of a child by a gay couple are still legal practices in Spain ??.
In 2007, Europride, the European Pride Parade, took place in Madrid. To celebrate Spain as the country with the most developed LGBT rights, nearly 2.5 million people attended events throughout the week, including an estimated 200,000 visitors from foreign countries. This event was supported by the city, regional government, and national government. In addition to hosting Europride, many Spanish cities hold local pride parades to embrace the LGBT community (Revolvly)
Although Spain is a largely accepting nation, homophobia continues to linger, as it does in most places. The passage of same sex marriage caused some division in the nation between those that are for and against same sex marriage. Although legally set equal rights, such as making gay marriage legal and the act of hate crimes illegal, has been established, that does not mean that social equality has been completely achieved (Homosexuality).
Overall, the people in Spain have a positive opinion of homosexuality. A 2015 survey states that 88% of people in Spain believe that homosexuality should be socially accepted (Khazan). Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriquez Zapatero says “The Spanish society returns gays the respect they deserve, recognize their rights, restore their identity, and gives them back their freedom”. Spain has made great advancements in the past 50 years and have completely turned over their negative opinions on homosexuality during the Franco regime (Khazan).
Although the minor social prejudice does not go unnoticed, great improvement has been made since the rule of Francisco Franco. It is likely that because of the history of such a repressive government, Spain decided to take the freedom they all deserve, making them one of the most accepting LGBT nations in the world today (Homosexuality).
LGBT History in Spain