Felipe González: 1982 and 1986: Legal, European and political situation

Preface: This is part of my massive rewrite of background information about the history of Spanish lesbians as a preface for the Madrid history travel guide. The Felipe González period is over 50 pages of single spaced size 12 text. It being broken down into the first half and the second half, with each half then broken down thematically. To make things easier to read, these are being shared in smaller blocked by section. This post contains three sections. The first is about the legal situation for lesbians as women and homosexuals. The second is about the European situation as it relates to the European Parliament and European Union. The last section is about Spanish political parties and their views on homosexuals and their issues. It could probably do with expanding about how they treated and viewed women as that is where many feminist lesbians were militant but that can wait as this thing is already weighty and those issues are explored in much more depth in the feminist section.

Socialist government of Felipe González (1982 – 1996)

1982 and 1986 Spanish general elections

The second general elections of the post Franco period occurred on 28 October 1982, called a few months earlier than required by law on 27 August 1982 by President Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo. At the time, Calvo-Sotelo, his party and members of that political coalition had suffered huge setbacks including an attempted military coup, a lack of confidence vote, and big losses in regional elections. With that in mind, Calvo-Sotelo chose not to run for re-election himself with his party eventually losing 93% of the seats it had won in the 1979 elections.  The right wing coalesced around Manuel Fraga and Alianza Popular instead, who won 107 seats and 26.4% of the overall vote, up from 16 seats and 7.4% of the vote in the previous elections.

The big winner was PSOE and their leader Felipe González; the party won 202 seats from 48.1% of the vote.  This was an increase from the 1979 elections where they had 121 seats and 30.4% of the vote. Felipe González had been the party leader since 28 September 1979, and that total gave him a clear majority in the 350 seat Congreso de Diputados. He was formally invested on 2 December 1982.

The PSOE led Felipe González represented a change from the previous period, where centrist political interests tried to unsuccessfully mediate between Spain’s more liberal leftist reformers and conservative forces who wanted the post-Franco period to maintain state patriarchy and to keep their positions within government and society. Despite a more liberal orientation, the Felipe González did not issue in a new era of hope as many activists felt they had achieved most of their accomplishments and activist cohorts developed during the transition period began to disappear.

Felipe González was supportive of homosexuals in the transition period and his presidency, but only up to a point.  He said, “For me homosexuality (…) deserves absolute respect, and I use the word respect in the ‘strong’ sense (…). I think it is very difficult for society to assimilate it, although every day it does a bit.”[1]

Lesbian problems of the transition continued despite reforms.  This included feminists trying to disassociate from them because of their sexuality, women still fearing coming out of the closet or using the word lesbian to self-identify and societal persecution for being a lesbian.  Lesbians also continued to lack role models, with no well-known actresses, politicians or artists being out of the closet.

The legacy of the Franco period continued for lesbians who were subjected to tortuous conversion therapy methods like electroshock therapy.  Some lesbians still felt the effects and committed suicide.  Some continued to have physical disabilities and mental health problems as a result that would continue until their death.

Lesbians still faced a number of major legal challenges during this period because they were both women and homosexuals. Some of the worst of these laws would be repealed during the first half of the Felipe González era.  The state, both national and regional, would also seek to address and correct some of these injustices by creating institutions to combat historical inequalities. There were other members of the LGBT community who also saw their legal situation change, which assisted in setting the stage for later conflict between members of the rainbow both in this era and much further down the road.

There were two legal reforms in the early and mid-1980s that impacted homosexual rights more broadly, though had little to no impact on lesbians of that era.  The first was the Spanish penal code was modified in 1983 and decriminalized transexual surgeries.  The second was that homosexuality removed as an offensive inside the Spanish military in 1985.

Ley de escándalo público continued to be enforced in 1983 in several judgements that year, specifically relating to sexual morality as a collective good.  Jurists would still consider homosexuality a provocative behavior in certain circumstances in this period, especially if it related to minors as it related to Article 431 of the 1973 Consolidated Criminal Code.  It appears few lesbians were prosecuted under this law, with most prosecutions involving transsexual women. The 1944 criminal law against public scandal was finally completely abolished in 24 March 1988, which ended the arrests of gay men and lesbians for expressing interest in public of members of the same sex.

One of the major accomplishments for feminists and lesbian feminists in regard to the legal situation of women in this era was a change to Spain’s abortion laws. Ley Orgánica 9/1985, adopted on 5 July 1985, decriminalized abortion in Spain for the first time since the Second Spanish Republic.  It did so only in three cases.  The first was if there was serious physical or mental health risks to the mother if she carried to term.  The second was if the pregnancy was a result of rape.  The third was if there were major malformations to the fetus.  The law allowed the interruption of the pregnancy to happen within 12 weeks for criminal related reasons, 22 weeks for eugenic related reasons and any time during the pregnancy for health of the mother related reasons.  The reason for the abortion needed to be certified in a medical report, and in the case of rape, be accompanied by a police report. Any abortion occurring outside those conditions could result in prison time for both the pregnant woman and the person who performed the abortion.

Spain passed its first reproductive assistance laws in 1988, one of the first countries in the world to pass legislation related to the area of assisted reproductive technologies (ART). The law said frozen embryos could either be donated for use by other couples, donated for research purposes; there were no legal limits on the number of embryos that could be created.

Instituto de la Mujer was created on 24 October 1983 through Ley 16/1983 as an autonomous body inside the Ministerio de Cultura to support compliance with articles 9.2 and 14 in the Spanish constitution and to promote and foster a culture of social equality between the sexes that would enable full participation of women in all aspects of Spanish life. 

The Institute replaced the old Subdirección de la Condición Femenina, with Carlota Bustelo serving as its firect director.  The following year, on 5 January 1984, Spain ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women after first having signed it on 17 July 1980 with a declaration saying that the ratification did not affect the constitutional provisions regarding succession by the Spanish monarchy.

At its founding, the Institute had a budget of around ₧600 million, which converts to around €3.6 million. The Institute went on to play a large role in making invisible discrimination in Spanish society visible through the production of statistics that would, among other things, allow comparisons of Spaniards to women in Europe and around the world.  The Institute would also play a large role in the future on the issue of gender violence as a result of its close associations with feminist organizations that were bringing the issue to the fore. Further, the institute would play a role in creating a network of support services for victims of gender violence, abused mothers and abused children.  In 1988, the Instituto de la Mujer would be moved inside the Ministerio de Asuntos Sociales.

Other regional governments would follow suit and create their own organizations. Emakumearen Euskal Erakundea (Emakunde) was created by law in 1988 as the regional body to design and promote policies that ensured equality for women. Despite lesbians having played a major role in the Basque feminist movement since the mid-1970s, lesbians would not be references by the organization until 1999, with the Positive Action Plan (1999-2005). In that plan, lesbians were mentioned in terms of addressing potential interventions to assist in facility women’s rights in the region.

European situation

The European Union and the European Parliament continued to address the issue of homosexuality both before and after Spain’s ascension in 1986. Spain’s gay rights activists, a bit more so than Spain’s militant feminists, were aware of and engaging in broader European issues as part of their militancy in this period.

Spain held its first European Parliament elections on 10 June 1987, having been allocated 60 seats in the 1985 Treaty of Accession and formally becoming a member on 1 January 1986.  PSOE, led by Foreign Affairs Minister Fernando Morán, won 28 seats while Alianza Popular who were led by Manuel Fraga won 17, Centro Democrático y Social won 7, and Izquierda Unida and Convergència i Unió won 3, and Herri Batasuna and Coalición por la Europa de los Pueblos won 1 each.  Their term was only for two years, as the European Parliament was scheduled to have elections in 1989.

The European bodies dealt with a few issues in this period.  The first was the issue of discrimination of homosexuals in the block.  The second was discrimination against homosexuals outside the block. The third was the rights of lesbians, lesbian mothers and the ability of lesbians to be free of male violence.  The fourth was HIV / AIDS and its relationship to homosexuals.  Unlike Spain where the specific concerns of lesbians were folded into generic concerns for women or homosexuals, the European Union would politically address issues lesbian issues as lesbian issues several times in the mid and late-1980s. In some cases though, lesbians would be lumped alongside other groups of disadvantaged women like immigrant women.

In the Parliament of European Community, Mrs van den Heuvel made a motion for a resolution in late 1982 for a statute and other anti-discrimination measures to be taken in support of homosexuals. This was recorded in the minutes of the 12 January 1983 sitting. The Committee on Social Affairs and Employment, Legal Affairs Committee, Political Affairs Committee, Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection would all be asked to give their opinion before the year ended. These efforts were from the Dutch Labour Party, intending to end all forms of legal discrimination against homosexuals and lesbians.

In June 1983, the Parliament of the European Community asked the Soviet Union to cease their persecution of homosexuals and members of the feminist community. They also asked the KGB to cease trying to discredit dissidents by accusing them of immorality and homosexuality.

The European Commission said in 1984 that, “Through its coordination of national research on AIDS as part of its medical research programme, the Commission is well aware of the spread of AIDS in the various Member States. […] At all events, the Commission takes the view that it is not for it to adopt a position with regard to the ‘criminal liability for infected homosexuals who refuse to abstain from sexual activity’.”

The Eindhoven Action Group for the Emancipation of Homosexuality submitted a petition on the rights of lesbian mothers under Rule 47 to the Parliament of the European Parliament in 1984.

The European Parliament published a resolution on sexual discrimination at the workplace in 1984 that referenced homosexual several times. Including:

– having regard to recommendation 924 (1981) and resolution 756 (1981) of the Council of Europe on discrimination against homosexuals,

– having regard to its resolution on human rights in the Soviet Union of 17 May 1983 (*), which calls on the Soviet Government to honour its human rights obligations under the Helsinki Final Act and, in particular, ‘to cease the KGB tactic of discrediting dissidents by accusing them of immorality and homosexuality’ and ‘to cease the persecution of homosexuals’;

C. whereas the WHO still classifies homosexuality as a mental illness and whereas this may have serious consequences on the life of homosexuals in society.

D. whereas in some Member States homosexuals are barred from certain professions such as the armed forces, the diplomatic service and the merchant navy,

E. whereas, moreover, even in those Member States whose legislation does not treat homosexuality between adults as an offence, in reality discrimination is practised against homosexuals with regard to work (recruitment, career prospects), job security, housing, prison conditions, respect for private life, and the right to visit or have custody of children,

F. whereas it is unacceptable that homosexuality should be the reason, whether manifest or not, for individual dismissals, as has happened in a number of well-known cases,

G. noting that certain sections of society still maintain a discriminatory attitude towards homosexuals which may have serious consequences,

H. noting, however, that all countries are witnessing a change in attitude which has also prompted adjustments to the legislation on sexuality,

1. Points out that in the campaign against discrimination of all kinds it is impossible to ignore or passively to accept de facto or de jure discrimination against homosexuals;

2. Deplores all forms of discrimination based on an individual’s sexual tendencies;

4. Urges the Member States to:

(a) abolish any laws which make homosexual acts between consenting adults liable to punishment,

(b) apply the same age of consent as for heterosexual acts, as recommended by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe,

(c) ban the keeping of special records on homosexuals by the police or any other authority,

(d) reject the classification of homosexuality as a mental illness;

5. Calls on the Commission to:

(b) submit proposals to ensure that no cases arise in the Member States of discrimination against homosexuals with regard to access to employment and working conditions,

(c) take steps to induce the WHO to delete homosexuality from its International Classification of Diseases;

6. Also calls on the Commission to:

(a) invite Member States to provide, as soon as possible, a list of all provisions in their legislation which concern homosexuals,

(b) to identify, on the basis of such lists, any discrimination against homosexuals with regard to employment, housing and other social problems by drawing up a report, pursuant to Article 122 of the EEC Treaty;

7. Lastly, instructs its Legal Affairs Committee to examine as soon as possible in what way differences between the laws of the various Member States with regard to the ban on homosexuality or the minimum age of consent constitute barriers to the right to freedom of movement and to freedom of establishment as an employee or self-employed person and, in so doing, also to indicate what Community measures might be applied to remove such barriers;

The European Parliament President had received a petition in December 1985 from Mr Hans-Joachim Schipporeit on discrimination against homosexual men and women.

The European Court of Justice supported the punishment of two people of the same sex engaging in sexual acts in the early 1980s.  Their position only evolved in the mid-1980s, when the Court’s opinion changed to claim that persecution of people engaged in consensual sex acts with people of the same sex were an invasion of privacy.

The European Parliament published a resolution in 1986 in response to the UN Conference concluding the Decade for Women held in Nairobi in July 1985. It specifically mentioned lesbians saying said should be given to lesbian self-help groups as lesbian women are often victims of male violence and aggression. It also highlighted that lesbians and prostitutes faced issues when reporting sex crimes to the police because their sexual practices made the police less likely to see them as victims. The European Parliament said basic and further training of police in the block was needed to change these attitudes to better assist victims.

The European Parliament published a resolution on AIDS in 1986 that references homosexuals only once saying, “D. whereas the disease is spreading from the high-risk groups such as homosexuals, drug addicts, prostitutes and haemophiliacs to other sections of society, represents a potential threat to everyone, and is therefore not confined to the so-called ‘fringe’ elements of society,”

In 1988, the European Parliament said that broadcasters played an important role, alongside women’s groups and associations, in changing attitudes in society towards immigrant women and lesbians.

Political parties and lesbians

Politically active lesbians tended to gravitate towards with Izquierda Unida (IU) or PSOE. Neither party openly supported lesbian rights in the early González period, with lesbians aligning politically based more on general political goals instead.  As the González progressed, both parties began to align more closely with lesbian political goals which reinforced their support among lesbians.  At the same time, as the 1980s progressed, institutionalist lesbian activism declined, concurrently to PSOE creating the Instituto de la Mujer in 1983 which formally institutionalized feminism in the Spanish government.

Izquierda Unida (IU) was primarily responsible for introducing legislation and supporting policies related to lesbian and gay rights in Spain in the González period on both a regional and national level. This would assist in the establishing of a political gay and lesbian agenda in Spain. In supporting equality between same and opposite sex couples in Spain, Izquierda Unida’s most important role became serving as an intermediary between gay and lesbian activists and PSOE leadership. The González government rejected the idea of same-sex marriage.

Izquierda Unida had integrated lesbian and gay rights into their electoral program by 1986. This integration of lesbian and gay rights into their joint electoral program with Partido Comunista de España would stay, well past the end of the González government.  They were the first major party to put forward such a program.

Gay and lesbian political platforms for PCE/IU and PSOE for 1986 to 1996 elections

ElectionsPartido Comunista de España / Izquierda UnidaPSOE
1986– Social and cultural normalization. – Repeal of Article 9.20 of the Disciplinary Regime of the Armed Forces and elimination of homosexuality as a cause of exclusion and expulsion from military service. – Destruction of the police files. – Adoption rights.– n/a
1989– Social and cultural normalization. – Anti-discrimination law. – LGBT protections in the workplace – Protection of Social Security rights. – Prevention of discriminatory behavior in government administration.– n/a
1993– Education for the respect of sexual differences. – Limitation of the use of police files. – Criminal protection. – Equalization of treatment between same-sex and opposite-sex couples.– n/a
1996– Creation of a registry of unmarried couples. – Creating a law that would treat same-sex and opposite-sex couples the same. – Free access to artificial insemination. – Comprehensive sex education plan and review of the educational plans. – Awareness campaigns. – Support for LGBT associations. – Creation of a parliamentary committee on LGBT rights.– Support for a law legalizing Civil Unions

[1] Spanish: “Para mí la homosexualidad (…) merece un respeto absoluto, y empleo la palabra respeto en el sentido “fuerte” (…). Creoque es muy difícil que la sociedad lo asimile, aunquecada día lo hace un poco”.

No comments to show.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: