Magistrates uphold gay marriage law

Popular Party filed appeal against Socialist legislation seven years ago

The gay marriage law passed by Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's Socialist government in 2005 is completely constitutional, judges ruled this week.

The Constitutional Court on Tuesday voted to uphold the law, which permits marriage between same-sex couples, after assembling to resolve an appeal filed against it seven years ago by current Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's then-opposition Popular Party (PP).

Eight magistrates - seven progressives and one conservative, Francisco Pérez de los Cobos - voted in favor of upholding the legislation, with three votes against, all cast by PP-nominated judges. Another judge appointed by the conservative group, Francisco Hernando, elected to abstain having taken decisions relating to the law in his former position as president of the General Council of the Judiciary legal watchdog.

The ruling consolidates and strengthens a law that has so far allowed 22,000 homosexual couples to marry in Spain. Twelve countries around the world now recognize this right and Spain was one of the first to include it in basic legislation.

The PP government, via Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, made it known that despite having appealed the law as unconstitutional it would not seek to amend it now it has a majority in Congress. Gallardón, who in his previous job as mayor of Madrid was one of the first officials to marry homosexual couples, had previously said it was his opinion that the law was constitutional.

In 2005 the PP had argued that the law modified the "secular, constitutional and legal conception of marriage as the union of a man and a woman."

"With all certainty it is one of the legislative amendments with the deepest significance and most repercussions for Spanish society ," the appeal document said.

Many PP leaders expressed their satisfaction with this week's ruling. "At last what is normal in the street will be normal in law and with full protection," said Javier Maroto, the PP mayor of Vitoria in the Basque Country.

Meanwhile, Socialists on Tuesday demanded the PP apologize for having ever presented its appeal. The Socialist Party spokeswoman in Congress, Soraya Rodríguez, expressly requested Prime Minister Rajoy say sorry for "having filed it and not having withdrawn it in seven years."

Rajoy himself favors a law "like in Germany, France and the United Kingdom," where same-sex relationships are legally recognized but not given the title of marriage. This would avoid "trouble and, what's more, would be accepted by everyone," he has said.

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