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Espagne

  • May 2005 : The catholic hierarchy’s offensive against the legalisation of same-sex marriage

On 12 January 2005, the Spanish government presented a bill before the conference of deputies on modifying the Civil Code on marriage. This text authorises homosexual couples to get married. The government followed the path laid out by the Socialist party, which in June 2004 had already presented a similar initiative to the convention.
From that moment, the Bishops’ Conference, an upper organisation representing the hierarchy of the Catholic Church of Spain, declared its opposition to this project in a series of texts, in particular in the manifesto En favor del verdadero matrimonio (In favour of real marriage), where the Bishops’ Conference summarised its position. In it, the Conference expressed that, in its opinion, "marriage can only be entered into by two people of a different sex, a man and a woman. Two people of the same sex do not have the right to enter into marriage. As for the State, it cannot recognise this inexistent right, unless it acts arbitrarily, in a manner that oversteps its prerogatives and would do serious harm to the common good."
The Bishops’ Conference defends the idea of a fundamental right that is above the State and it denies the fact that legislative powers can introduce laws without conforming to the principles of a Higher Law, Divine Law to be specific, which in this case the Conference identifies with Natural Law.

A good part of this polemic comes from the fact that the new law grants homosexual couples the right to adopt children, which is inadmissible according to the episcopal Conference. "It hurts us to think of the damage which will be caused to children adopted by these false couples, and to all the young people who will not be granted the education provided in a true marriage. We also think of the schools and teachers who, in one way or another, will have to tell their pupils that in Spain, the marriage does not mean the union of a man and a woman." (note of the Executive comitee of the ECC).

When the time of the approval of the project came, the episcopal Conference intensified its offensive, in particular by applying pressure upon the Spanish members of Parliament, in order for them to vote against the text, asserting that "the law that is being approved would not really have the character of a law, because it contradicts both the reason and the standard ethics." Moreover, as the law is against the moral order, it is licit not to obey it. Catholics would be forced to refuse to celebrate this type of union." Catholics, like all people of true morality, cannot be unsure or weak with respect to this law, they must oppose to it in a clear and energetic manner. In fact, they will not be able to approve it by their vote, and, in its application, since there is no moral obligation, each person one will be free to assert the right to the objection of conscience.

  • October 2004 : Same-sex marriage

The legislative initiative that brought on the most criticism from the Catholic Church was without a doubt the one intended to legalise same-sex marriage. The socialist government justified this initiative - in October 2004 the draft bill was approved – by the need to meet the requirements of equality for all citizens and non-discrimination on the basis of sex outlined in the Constitution of 1978.
For the Spanish Conference of bishops the legislation on this form of marriage would lead to the devaluation of what it considers "real marriage", a union between a man and a woman before God and the Church. It argued in a comment that was made public : "Two people of the same sex do not have the right to enter into marriage. As for the State, it cannot recognise this inexistent right, unless it acts arbitrarily in a manner that oversteps its prerogatives and would do serious harm to public interest." (A favor del verdadero matrimonio. Nota del Comité Ejecutivo de la Conferencia Episcopal Española. Madrid, 15 de julio de 2004). The full text is available on the website of the bishops’ conference.
In this text, the bishops’ Conference assigned procreation as the fundamental purpose of marriage. As a result, since two people of the same sex cannot procreate, granting them marriage rights would mean stripping marriage of its essential meaning. In the same way, the Conference refuses the government’s right to legislate on issues that it considers to be under its scope of competence. The Church thus shows its refusal to recognise the religious neutrality of the State and denies one of the foundations of the democratic system, which is the legitimacy of legislative power, representing the people, to regulate their lives through law. In this way, the Catholic hierarchy itself made the issue regarding the necessity of initiating the separation between Church and State reappear at the centre of the political debate.