Context: Still working on compiling a more thorough history of Spanish lesbianism so it can be separated from the travel guides. The Felipe González period is just super long, the longest of any section. This specific section is on marriage equality. It isn’t always about lesbians all the time, but about an important human right that lesbians went on to earn. It will get a lot, lot longer as a subsection in the next government because that’s when marriage equality finally succeeds. The previous sections have already been updated as I chased down references to verify facts for this one. Research is so much fun that way.
In the early and mid-1990s, the homosexual rights activists generally did not see an immediate need for same-sex marriage. It was viewed as a more long-term goal. This idea was shared by both CRECUL and COGAM. Their views, along with those of the FELG, CGL, Asturian based XEGA, evolved and sometimes differed or clashed as the 1990s progressed and these groups began to actively strategize about how to achieve this goal. These groups differed some from lesbian feminists.
For the first time in 1990, there was a judicial case where a homosexual tried to seek a widow’s pension following the death of their partner. Juan Antonio Reina Colchero asked the Tribunal Constitucional for ₧1.3 million in reparations for his partner’s, FJMT, death, feeling he was owed that the law should treat his relationship as equal to that of heterosexuals. He had been previously denied at Magistratura de Trabajo número 6 de Barcelona and the Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Cataluña, and arrived at the Tribunal Constitucional after appeals. His case had previously been denied as not discriminatory because homosexual relationships do not produce children. The judge had said that despite living together for six years and being at the hospital with him as he died, “the difference is obvious, in a case based on the capacity to generate children of the union and in the other based on the strictly sexual and affective aspects “. Reina Colchero’s appeal at the Tribunal Constitucional was ultimately unsuccessful.
Lesbian demands for marriage equality and partnership rights started to gain visibility and support from within their own communities in 1991. Originating from lesbian feminist groups, a set published their demands that year. Lesbian Feminist Collective of Madrid and National Lesbian Feminist Taskforce published a joint statement titled “Lesbiana que no te discriminen”, which said, “We are not in support of institutionalizing (affection) relationships, but we do not accept the discrimination suffered by those lesbians and gays that would like to marry and cannot do it.” That same year, Revolutionary and Cultural Committee for Lesbians (CRECUL) became the first group to offer to create a political partnership with Spanish political parties to work on enacting laws to establish lesbian relationship rights. By the following year, lesbian feminists began more concentrated and regular efforts to meet with regional and national political parties to achieve their goal of marriage equality.
1994 proved to be a pivotal year in the battle for relationship equality in Spain, with homosexual rights groups getting more involved and staking clear positions, with political parties on the left investing more in the issue, and with legislative efforts taking place on the municipal and national level.
In 1994, FELG and CRECUL split on the issue of civil unions. Both groups had their own views on how to address the issue most effectively, and what their end goals were. They were very different, and those differences were not reconcilable.
XEGA played a critical role of bringing up the topic of relationship equality in Vitoria and in the Basque Country more generally in 1994. At the 1994 Encuentro Estatal de colectivos de Gais y Lesbianas i Gijón, the topic of marriage equality was raised by XEGA for the first time. Agerian Lesbianen Taldeak and EHGAM organized a join Civil Rights Conferences in Bilbao in 1994 to discuss proposed civil union laws.
Agerian Lesbianen Taldea, COGAL and Asamblea de Lesbianas de Alava organized a conference in Vitoria-Gasteiz in 1994 to discuss where homophobia was still enshrined in the Penal Code, the issue of homosexual adoption and the need for programs to address these issues in education, gender models, and how homosexuality was discussed in the media.
Izquierda Unida first put forward marriage equality in their 1993 electoral platform, seven years before PSOE would do the same. The following year marked the first time a political party in Spain, IU with support from the Socialist Group, for the first time ever introduced legislation to recognize same-sex civil unions legislation which would have given de facto recognition to same-sex couples that opposite-sex couples already had. The legislation was written by Ministra de Asuntos Sociales Cristina Alberdi with support of organizations like CRECUL.This effort failed. Despite the failure, the Minister of Social Affairs sent CRECUL President María Elena de León a letter at Christmas time 1994 saying of her contributions on the marriage equality efforts, “[…] at the same time thanking you for the firm support of all of you and others to perform the difficult and rewarding tasks of government. […] I know that they have been important achievements, but I also know that I could not have done it without your collaboration and support”.
Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos passed in 1994. It was one of the laws that began to offer protection to same-sex couples who rented apartments together. It was also the first national level law to offer legal protection for same-sex couples. This was important since the courts had started saying in 1990 that same-sex couples had no rights when cohabitating together, and if the legislature wanted to confer those rights, the courts said they needed to pass legislation that did so. The law was not same-sex marriage but it was one of the foundation stones for providing rights for couples laid into law.
Vitoria-Gasteiz PNV Mayor José Ángel Cuerda created the first civil registry anywhere in Spain in March 1994. It was open to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. His action came as a bit of a surprise. The move by the mayor of Vitoria though had not been solicited by any LGB organizations in the city, nor had they protested outside the townhall requesting it, and the City Council had not put any demands to him for action to be taken on the issue. The mayor said he was motivated by a desire to improve the quality of life for people in his city and by the Roth Resolution (A3-0028/94) passed by the European Union earlier that year. In creating this, Vitoria became the first Spanish municipality to have a same-sex couple registry. Despite the ability for couples to register, this status provided no legal rights in Vitoria, the Basque Country or Spain as a whole. For many in Spain, the announcement came as a complete surprise.
For locals in the homosexual rights movement, in the Basque Country and Asturias, the Vitoria news was less of a surprise in that a municipality in their area had done this as XEGA and others had been working towards that for a while. XEGA, who had connections with Izquierda Unida in other cities, seized upon the move in Vitoria to get similar registration set up in Gijón and then in Castrillón. A few months later, on 13 June 1994, Barcelona followed Vitoria-Gasteiz’s lead and created a municipal civil registry. It had the same limits as Vitoria-Gasteiz’s in that the registry provided no legal rights. By August 1995, over 30 Spanish municipalities had civil registries that included same-sex couples. These cities included Barcelona, Cordoba, Granada, Ibiza and Toledo.
In March 1994, the first Encuentro on the issue of government regulation of de facto couples was organized by homosexual rights organizations in Valencia. They decided at the meeting to hold a demonstration in Madrid with participants from all over the country to lobby for that goal. This protest ultimately took place in November 1995, with 2,000 people taking part. It was the largest LGB events in Spain at that time that did not include Pride since the late 1970s. XEGA was present at these and similar meetings, consistently arguing that de facto relationship recognition was not enough, that this offered fewer rights than marriage, that heterosexuals were now being offered both civil unions and marriage while homosexuals only got one option, and that homosexual rights groups should be fighting for the right to marry. This view differed greatly from the view coming out of Catalonia and Madrid at the time.
By the mid-1990s, the AIDS epidemic was being used by some homosexual rights activists in Spain as an argument for the need for same-sex relationship rights, as couples facing losses and trauma needed legal protection during that period to prevent even more harm.
A protest was held in Madrid in 1995 in “Por nuestros derechos”, including the recognition of de facto relationships. Despite organizers trying to get as many gays and lesbians to participate as they could in a show of strength, only around 1,500 people turned out. Many more did not as they feared the consequences of coming out of the closet, including things like losing their job, and stayed home. The protest ended with a tacit devised by lesbian feminist, a kiss in protest designed to make their relationships visible to the public. The 1,500 contrasted with 50,000 who turned out the same year in London during Pride to make the same demands. The small numbers were used by some politicians to dismiss gay rights activist as a class worthy of fighting for; they were viewed as lacking visibility.
Public discourse did not always keep pace with lesbian and gay demands in this period. While lesbians separate from the homosexual rights movement were beginning to demand marriage equality by the end of the González period, public conversation on legal recognition for homosexual relationships focused almost exclusively on de facto relationships through civil registries up until around 2002 when the narrative finally began to change.
 Spanish: “obvia es la diferencia, en un caso basada en la capacidad generadora de hijos de la unión y en el otro basada en lo estrictamente sexual y afectivo”.