Conservative government of José Maria Aznar (1996 – 2004)

Background: Still rewriting things. This section is all one post. The feminist section is much smaller and split into two separate sections because by then, things really had gone in two directions. This section is only around 14,000 words of a history around 95,000 words so far.

Conservative government of José Maria Aznar (1996 – 2004)

PSOE’s Felipe González led government went into the 1996 Spanish general elections having been dogged by corruption scandals that had seen the party’s majority get smaller and smaller each election cycle. Their position in government finally became unsustainable when the Catalan nationalist party Convergència i Unió (CiU) withdrew their confidence and supply in June 1995, resulting in González being unable to pass the 1996 General State Budget in October 1995. The Cortes was officially disolved on 9 January 1996 and elections were called for 3 March 1996, 15 months ahead of the constitutionally mandated schedule.

Partido Popular (PP), led by José María Aznar, went into the elections as heavy favorites having made massive games in the 1994 European Parliament election and 1995 local and regional elections. With a voter turnout of 77.4%, the 1996 elections turned out to be the closest since the transition to democracy with Partido Popular getting 156 seats and 38.8% of the popular vote, up from 142 seats and 35.4% in the 1993 elections. PSOE won 141 seats and had 37.6% of the popular vote, down 18 seats and a drop of 1.2% from the 1993 elections. Izquierda Unida, led by Julio Anguita, picked up 21 seats and had 10.5% of the popular vote, an improvement on the 1993 elections when they had 18 seats and 9.6% of the popular vote. CiU lost a seat and 0.34% of the popular vote, finishing with 4.6% and 16 seats. This left them out of government. The only other party with a major shift in seats was Bloque Nacionalista Galego (BNG) who went from 0 seats in 1993 to 2 seats in 1996.

National elections took place again on 12 March 2000, with the law allowing new elections to take place no later than 2 April 2000 given the last election date of 3 March 1996. Partido Popular and José María Aznar went into the elections as heavy favorites, with the only question being how regional parties would impact election results. Partido Popular was expected to benefit from strong economic growth and moderate governing practices. PSOE went into the elections with Joaquín Almunia as their leader, while CiU had Xavier Trias in charge and IU, led by Francisco Frutos, joined PSOE on a joint ticket representing the left.

José María Aznar built on his party’s previous gains, amassing 183 seats in the 350 seat Congreso de Diputados. Partido Popular had achieved an absolute majority in the Congreso de Diputado following the 2000 elections. PSOE, running on a combined ticket with IU, lost 16 seats and 3.4% of the popular vote. Joaquín Almunia resigned immediately afterwards as it was the worst result for the party in their history since the 1982 elections. IU lost 11 seats and 3.9% of the popular vote, finishing with 9. CiU lost 1 seat and 0.4% of the popular vote, finishing with 15 seats. Unió Valenciana lost their single seat in the Congreso de Diputados. Iniciativa per Catalunya Verds (ICV) dropped from 2 seats down to 1. Other regional parties picked up seats including BNG who went from 2 seats to 3, Partido Nacionalista Vasco (PNV) who went from 5 to 7 seats, and Partido Andalucista (PA) who went from 0 seats to 1.

The 1996 transition from the left leaning PSOE to the conservative PP marked an important moment in Spanish lesbian and gay (LG) history as it marked the start of a period where homosexuality became very much an important political issue inside Spanish politics. During this period, PSOE would frequently bring up LG rights when they thought it would activate their voting base by making the issue into a political weapon to attack Partido Popular. This period would also see the national influence of smaller, loosely organized LGTB rights in Barcelona begin to fade, and be replaced by national organizations in Madrid. Disconnected groups would become more connected, and, while local activism continued, issues impacting lesbians, gays and bisexuals were often being tackled on a more regional[1] and national level.

In 1997, PSOE created an LGBT group inside their party, an initiative started by MEP Carmen Cerdeira. The group created was three years after IU had already created a similar group. Regional branches of PSOE started to follow suit. PSOE Extremadura created an LGBT working group in 2003.

Sindicato de Lesbianas y Gays de Andalucía was founded in November 1997 in Málaga to promote the rights of gays and lesbians in the workplace, and to fight to end workplace discrimination. The union came out of the Málaga section of Liberación Gay de Andalucía (LIGAN) and Sindicato Unitario de Trabajadores (SUAT).

The Aznar era would see a period of intense action by gay and lesbian activists seeking to expand their rights on a number of issues, including marriage equality, reproductive rights, pension rights and immigration rights. It would also see a more European based approach for political and legal status to expand rights not just inside Spain, but across the whole of the European Union. Many of these efforts would be led by lesbians from other countries. The period would also see Partido Comunista de España / Izquierda Unida and PSOE include gay and lesbian rights in their political platforms, with more complete plans to give full rights of citizenship as the period progressed.

Despite the conservative national government, this period also saw lesbians benefited from broadening of women’s rights, including in a number of situations whereas part of broader gender equality initiatives where they were specifically named as a group though mostly on a regional level. This included the pioneering 1999 Basque Country Gender Equality plan that specifically included of lesbians and the 2003 Canary Islands Gender Equality plan that also mentioned lesbians. Despite this, the Spanish government in this period would sometimes come into conflict with the European Union over women’s rights issues as they related to lesbians and other sexual minorities in bodies like European Institute of Women’s Health and European Institute for Gender Equality.

During the mid-1990s, Spanish lesbians would finally develop their own unique political movement independent of the broad LGBT and feminist movements, taking to the streets to demand equality under the law and full rights of citizenship. In the lead up to the elections for PSOE candidate José Maria Aznar and when he was in office, the number of lesbian political organizations expanded exponentially, with various types of groups coming into existence. Some sought media attention and international affiliation in support of their goals. Others were quieter, more locally focused and sometimes obfuscating their lesbian origins as they fought for women’s rights that would also explicitly benefit lesbians.

ElectionsPartido Comunista de España / Izquierda UnidaPSOE
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
2000– Creation of civil registry for de facto couples. – Equalization of same-sex couples with opposite-sex couples. – Recognition of the right of de facto unions to joint adoption.– Equalization of gay couples with heterosexuals. – Creation of an observatory for equal opportunities for gays and lesbians.
2004– Right to marriage between people of the same sex. – Law of Civil Unions that equates them totally to marriages. – Sexual Identity Law. – Review of Article 14 of the Spanish Constitution. – Awareness campaigns. – Right of asylum. – Sex education. – Modification of collective agreements.– Right to marriage between people of the same sex. – Sexual Identity Law. – Law recognizing civil unions. – Equality policies in the labor market. – Social rights for de facto couples, both same and opposite sex couples.

In some regions, the political and legal was mostly excluded lesbians and instead was more exclusively on gay men. Fundación Triángulo Extremadura found more success in lobbying for the rights of gay men in 1999, building on their success from the previous year. In 1999, Fundación Triángulo Extremadura successfully lobbied to have the blood donation rules by Servicio Extremeño de Salud be changed to no longer exclude homosexual and bisexual men just because they are homosexual and bisexual. This did not impact lesbian and bisexual women as they were not viewed as being at elevated risk to donate blood to begin with.

During the 2000 elections, both IU and PSOE each had a member of FELGTB on their list, Pedro Zerolo, from the PSOE, for the Madrid city council, and Boti García Rodrigo, from Izquierda Unida for the Congreso de Deputies.

The broad parliamentary discussions around lesbians and gays in September 2000 assumed gays and lesbian were a special subject or class, for whom the law which should create special policies to address specific class needs. No party at the time was discussed the possibility of legalizing same-sex marriage. The discussion was recognition of civil unions as part of “gay policies” put forth by Spain’s leftist parties.

FELGTB met with all the political parties in the early 2000s, but focused most of their efforts on PSOE as they believed PSOE had the greatest chance of eventually governing. At the same time, FELGTB became a scourge for José María Aznar by the early 2000s. Every time any member of Partido Popular said anything homophobic, FELGTB representatives would appear in the media to condemn them. This in turn also brought criticism of Aznar from unions, who were looking for additional reasons to attack him as they sought their own reforms.

Starting around 2001, the lesbian community pushed for anti-discrimination laws, hate crime legislation and laws to protect lesbians from domestic violence. This coincided with the earliest period of Spanish fourth-wave feminism that emerged in response to the murder of Ana Orantes in Granada on 17 December 1997, and was initially led by women in the media.

FELGTB announced on 25 February 2004 a campaign called “No votes PP”. The announcement was made two days before the start of the general election campaigns. This marked a departure from their previous Vota rosa” campaigns that only supported some politicians in that it was specifically aimed at opposing a specific political party.

European situation

Compared to earlier periods, Europe appeared to play a less important role in the Aznar period as Spanish lesbians and gays focused more intensely on their internal battles, using their internal structures to seek change. Lesbians had also become less engaged as a class with European based organizations.

Early on in this period, broader European Union issues would start to slowly impact Spain domestically as gay and lesbian rights began to be dealt with more using an international framework. The 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam incorporated European Union guidance around sexual orientation and discrimination to say such discrimination must be abolished. The treaty defined orientation as affective and sexual desire between two people of the same sex, opposite sex, or indistinctly with people of different sexes. The Treaty of Amsterdam said orientation can be both a choice, similar to that of religion, or a precondition, similar to that of race. No matter the reason a person is attracted to someone based on their sex, the European Union said people’s sexual orientation must be vigorously protected; a choice to be lesbian or gay cannot factor into discriminatory efforts. The Treaty of Amsterdam was ratified in May 1999 by fifteen member states. It marked an important end to legislative efforts inside the European Commission that began in 1979.

The ILGA continued to engage internationally with Spain during the government of Felipe González, hosting a number of meetings and conferences. From 27 – 31 December 1996, Colectivo de Gais y Lesbianas de Madrid (COGAM) hosted the 18th ILGA European Conference in Madrid. Attended by 100 delegates, the meeting saw ILGA-Europe become the official umbrella organization for Europe inside the International Lesbian and Gay Association and formally organized under Belgian law. During the Congress, an action plan was created that was titled “24 ideas for European Commission-led initiatives”. The goal was to get the European Commission to better support gay and lesbian equality.

Historical memory

It was only during the late 1990s that extensive research on the depiction of female homoerotic desire in medieval and historical Spanish text began to take place both in Spain and elsewhere. Prior to this, extensive research had already been conducted about male same-sex desire that dated back to the early 1980s including the works of scholars like Boswell, Bennett, Laquer, Murry and Greenberg.

Fundación Triángulo successfully lobbied the Asamblea de Extremadura in 1998 to monitor the historical memory in the region, specifically in regards to maintaining historical files related to the Ley de Peligrosidad Social. This amended the historical memory law to specifically include those records, which were being destroyed in some other regions in Spain.

Efforts towards preserving historical memory were underway nationally by 2000, led in part by journalist Emilio Silva. These efforts, especially more later ones, involved finding and identifying the bones of members of Spain’s LGBT community that were killed during the Spanish Civil War. This has proven contentious among Spaniards, as some people do not understand how locating bones and mass graves will assist in Spain resolving its complicated history around the Spanish Civil War and the impact of that war. Despite this, a number of families of LGBT victims, mostly involving gay men and rarely ever lesbians, felt it was very important to locate the graves and bones of their loved ones as these individuals often were anonymous people who had no larger legacy in society, and would otherwise be forgotten as they were not famous, well known or their individual lives and actions did not impact the war efforts and were not reported by the media of the time.

Journalist Emilio Silva founded Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory in 2000 after he successfully located the remains of his grandfather and eleven others in a roadside ditch. Following this, he and the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory began lobbying in 2002 for historical memory to become law. They lobbied for years before finding success in 2007 finding support from the Zapatero government, with the legislation being named as La Ley de Memoria Histórica. The law critically did not upset the tentative arrangement created during the transition period as it only acknowledged victims, not perpetuators of civil rights violations, repression and violence enacted against the population. The Law 46/1977 and Pacto de Olvido that provided amnesty for members of the Franco regime remained in place.

Lesbians would rarely be the focus on these historical memory efforts, both in this early period and as the movement started gaining momentum later in the 2000s and into the 2010s. The focus, by intentional design, was instead on gay men and transgender individuals. It followed a historical pattern in Spain of intentionally telling the story of male participants first, with women playing secondary or incidental roles. The LGBT community as a whole, often infused with patriarchy as a result of lesbian activists leaving for feminist communities as a result of not feeling welcome because of patriarchy, just were not interested in prioritizing lesbian historical memory over that of gay men.

 Cultural life for lesbians included a number of options, depending on where lesbians lived. These options included both more traditional bars, sports and other activities.

El Barberillo de Lavapiés in Madrid was a bar for women, mostly lesbian but also heterosexual ones that was important in the mid and late 1990s and early 2000s. Ángeles Álvarez, who went on to become a member of the Congreso de Diputados representing PSOE, ran the bar for a decade, allowing her to work in what she described as in an open and dignified way while still being an out lesbian. The bar continued to exist as late as 2009 but has since disappeared.

Tal Fulanita is an LGBTQI+ bar located in Chueca. It regularly hosts live music, and works with the regional and local government to promote these events. The bar is an international reference point for the LGBTQI+ community in the city, opening in 2004. It has some lesbian friendly shows, and can be a good place to take a date.

Agerian Lesbianen Taldea was involved in organizing a number of cultural and social activities for lesbians in Bizkaia in the Basque country in the late 1990s. This included organizing cycling competitions in Bizkaia for several years in the late 1990s, and holding several editions a sports competition called Lesagaybira in Bilbao in the late 1990s.

Rayo Vallecano de Madrid (feminino) was founded as a women’s section of Rayo Vallecano in 2001, and made their debut in Superliga in the 2003-2004 season. Since then, they have gone on to play in the UEFA Women’s Champions League, and win the Copa de Reina in 2008. Lesbians who have played for the team include Ana Romero.

Club Atlético de Madrid Femenino played their first season in 2001-2002, and formally became part of the organization at the end of the season, starting in the last professional category of women’s football. The team quickly moved up the ranks to become one of the best teams in Europe. Among the lesbians who played for the team were Lola Gallardo.

New movements were taken up by lesbian writers. The costumbrismo literary movement had entered Spanish lesbian literature community by 1998. Libertad Morán is an example of one such Spanish lesbian writer using this style.

Representation of lesbians on television also improved a fair bit compared to previous periods. There were more shows that had lesbian characters with situations that began to look more like actual lesbian realities. Despite this, there were often very problematic aspects to how lesbians were continuing to be portrayed, like lesbianism being a phase, lesbianism actually being bisexuality, or lesbianism being the defining characteristic of a character.

Nissaga de poder, produced by TV3 and running from January 1996 to May 1998 in the Catalan language, used a format similar to the American serial drama, Falcon Crest. The show followed the Montsolís family; Núria Prims played the family’s youngest daughter, Mariona, who fell in love with her best friend Inéz, played by Alicia González Láa. In the series finale, Mariona informs her family of her intention to go to the Netherlands so she can marry Inés.

Laura Mendoza started playing Clare del Rio in Al salir de clase in November 1998, a little over a year after the show first debuted on Telecinco as a daily fictional teen drama. Clare is originally written as a lesbian who tried to get classmate Miriam, played by Marian Aguilera, to fall in love with her using whatever means she can, including trying to make Miriam jealous by getting close to a boy named Alex. Despite being written as a lesbian, Clare is later depicted as a bisexual after she falls in love with Alex. For lesbian fans of the show, this was disappointing because it implied being a lesbian was a temporary status that could be changed once a woman became involved with a man.

Anabel Alonso joined the cast of Telecinco’s Siete Vidas in 2000 as Diana Freire, continuing the role into 2006 when the show finally went off the air. Diana would later appear as a character in Aída. Diana’s character is fully of nuances and is very complicated. Originally portrayed as a heterosexual, after kissing a woman named Sonia, Diana questions her sexual orientation before finally realizing she is actually a lesbian. One of the issues around the depiction of Diana is that once she comes out of the closet, much of her plot line revolved completely around her being a lesbian, not as her being a person who also just happens to be a lesbian.

While previous eras talked about violence and discrimination committed by security forces and the general public against gays and lesbians in everyday life, by the middle of this period the media began reporting on specific incidents of violence committed by the public against lesbians.

Near the Catedral de Barcelona, a lesbian couple on 15 July 2002 were verbally accosted and then one of the women had a glass bottle thrown at her head. This is one of the first recorded attacks in the media against lesbians by a member of the public.

On 12 August 2003, a lesbian couple were insulted and then expelled after kissing each other inside a disco-bar in San Sebastian. The lesbian couple asked colectivo Gehitu for support, who then accompanied the women back to the disco-bar where they were once again met with homophobic abuse and expelled again.

One of the biggest media stories involving a lesbian and biggest media injustices towards a lesbian in Spanish history occurred in the middle of 2003. Dolores Vázquez was caught up in the middle of the 2003 Wanninkhof-Carabantes murder case, depicted by both the media and the judiciary as a villain despite a lack of evidence connecting her to the crime. Her false conviction largely was based on her being a lesbian, and having a poor relationship with the victim, the daughter of her ex-partner.

Marriage equality, family and reproductive rights

The concept of civil partnerships was never seriously considered by lesbian and gay activists in the 1990s and early 2000s; demands were made for full equality under the law from the onset of the movement demanding legal recognition for their relationships. The only group to seriously consider civil partnerships were the Francoist linked Partido Popular in 1997 and 2002. This was because, following gains on the issue from the left starting in 1993 and the growing number of cities and towns creating civil registries, activists feared motivations on the part of the Spanish right in their support of civil unions, rejecting the compromise and made clear to their political partners in PSOE that they would make the necessary sacrifices to see marriage equality come to fruition. They now believed de-facto relationship registries were not enough for lesbian and gay couples because these did not allow them to adopt; the law only allowed married couples to be able to adopt or to assume guardianship of children.

And one of the major issues in this period for Spanish lesbians was adoption rights. Lesbian couples had internalized the deep-seated Spanish ideas of National Catholicism that place an important on family. This has played a role in their activism around adoption rights. The right to adoption would become intertwined with marriage equality, with the two issues being pushed for by activists simultaneously.

Spanish language around the concept of marriage equality would also begin to evolve in the late González period and early Aznar period. Phrases like “uniones de hecho”[2], “parejas de hecho”[3] and “matrimonio gay”[4] began to be used by the broader public to discuss the concept of marriage equality. This change in language occurred at a time when attitudes towards homosexuality and marriage equality were also changing. A 1997 study by the Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas found that 57.4% of Spaniards believed the same-sex couples living together deserved the same rights and obligations as married couples.

When the homosexual rights movement finally made the switch from asking for recognition of de facto couples to asking for marriage, they also changed other language. They stopped using the word couples and instead started using the word families, and also talking about how these families existed without any sort of legal protection and had to remain invisible to avoid problems.

Despite a lack of serious efforts around establishing civil partnerships and civil unions on a national level until 1998, efforts were made on the regional level as a precursor to national recognition for same-sex marriage. These efforts were underway in 1997 and 1998 in Catalonia, with the Catalan regional government officially creating a couples registry in 1998. This act made them the sixth place in the world to create such a registry for same-sex couples, behind only Denmark in 1989, Norway in 1993, Sweden in 1995, Iceland and Hungary in 1996 and the Netherlands in 1998. Similar registries of de facto same-sex registries were created in the regions of Aragon in 1999, Navarra in 2000 and Valencia in 2001.

CRECUL and Grupo de Gays y Lesbianas in Izquierda Unida convinced Izquierda Unida to present their legislation same-sex couples, “Draft of Proposal of Law for the legal equality of de facto couples with independence of their sexual orientation”, to the Congreso de Diputados on 5 November 1996. Modifications were made by PSOE and it was not accepted by the larger LGB community because it failed to address adoption by same-sex couples. CRECU President Elena de León appeared before the Congreso de Diputados on 10 June 1997 at the “Subcommittee for the study of the regulation of situations and effects on legal matters derived from de facto unions, regardless of sex of its members, and other forms of coexistence other than marriage”.

CRECUL took the lead in the Congreso de Diputados early on because CRECUL and FEGL were in conflict over the issue of marriage equality in the mid-1990s. CRECUL demanded everything at once, full legal recognition of same-sex coupled with opposite sex-couples and adoption rights. In contrast, FEGL advocated for incremental steps.

When Partido Popular came to power in 1996, lesbian, feminist and homosexual rights groups began to realize that the aspirations of civil unions and common-law couple recognition under the law with rights attached were not going to be possible. In response, they began to more clearly agitate for same-sex marriage. That mattered little because between 1996 and 2004, Partido Popular blocked five legislative attempts to amend Spain’s civil code to allow marriage to be sex-neutral.

CRECUL President María Elena de León was summed by the President of the Congreso de Diputados on 3 June 1997 with a letter that said, “The Subcommittee for the study of the regulation of legal situations and effects of de facto unions, regardless of the sex of their members, and other forms coexistence other than marriage, has agreed to request the appearance of various people and representatives of organizations with recognized experience or knowledge on the subject, among which you are. To this end, I am pleased to convene with you on June 10, 1997, at 7:00 p.m., in order that it may proposed to the Subcommittee her opinion regarding the problem under study.”

Partido Popular responded to the recognition of de facto relationships and their being treated equally under the law by proposing Draft Organic Law of Civil Union Contracts in May 1997. This proposed law attempted to define civil unions as lesser under the law than marriage. In November 1997, Partido Popular tried again to undo civil unions by proposing a modification to the law that removed the words afectividad and orientación sexual. Both moves were highly criticized by gay rights groups in Spain, including COGAM and FEGL.

Partido Popular submitted draft legislation in March 1997 to the Congreso de Diputados called “contrato de unión civil” and formally as Proposición de Ley 122/000098, Orgánica de contrato de unión civil. This legislation would have given legal recognition to any two people who lived together and wanted to help each other out. It was not exclusive to romantic couples. Partido Popular did not have an absolute majority in the Congreso de Diputados at that time. Their proposal satisfied nobody, despite the demand for such legislation. They submitted the legislation mainly in an attempt to block similar legislative efforts that would have given relationship rights to homosexual couples that could have been viewed as marriage like or allowed homosexuals to create or identify as family units.

In March 1997, the proposed law on de facto couples was debated in the Congreso de Diputados for the first time and voted on where it was rejected. The vote was 161 votes in favor with PSOE, IU, PNV and the mixed group voting in favor, and 161 against with PP, CiU and CC opposing. It was then voted on again and rejected in May 1997 by a vote of 161 for and 163 against. During the voting process, there was an attempt to out gay and lesbian members of parliament. After a third vote in May 1997, the measure passed with support of PSOE, IU-IC, CC and Mixed Group, along with a vote from PP deputy Celia Villalobos, and the announced abstention of CiU. The vote came out 165 for, 159 against and 11 abstentions. The measure that passed did not include adoption rights, and was only for the recognition of de facto couples but ultimately did not become law with multiple attempts following after that. Most gay and lesbian groups were happy with the legislation passing in 1997, but CRECUL announced they were not as it did not include adoption rights, immigration rights or nationality rights. Despite the failure of their 1997 draft legislation, Partido Popular tried several more times between then and 2000 to push through that and similar legislation.

Despite a lack of serious efforts around establishing civil partnerships and civil unions on a national level, such efforts were made on the regional level as a precursor to national recognition for same-sex marriage. These efforts were underway in 1997 and 1998 in Catalonia, with the Catalan regional government officially creating a couples registry in 1998. This act made them the sixth place in the world to create such a registry for same-sex couples, behind only Denmark in 1989, Norway in 1993, Sweden in 1995, Iceland and Hungary in 1996 and the Netherlands in 1998. Similar registries of de facto same-sex registries were created in the regions of Aragon in 1999, Navarra in 2000 and Valencia in 2001.

The Austrian collective XEGA launched a campaign in support of same-sex marriage in 1997. The group were funded by the Principado de Asturias. While their campaign had limited direct effect, they inspired other LGBT organizations around Spain to begin advocating for same-sex marriage after seeing efforts for civil unions going nowhere.

COGAM began advocating for same-sex marriage and same-sex couple adoption in 1998, joining CRECUL and giving Madrid two major LGB organizations active in the fight and in place to more readily fight the national battle.

In March 1998, NGOs, unions, left wing groups, gay rights groups, gay and lesbian groups, and transexual groups protested attempts by Partido Popular to amend the legislation about civil unions, with the Coalición Canaria presenting a bill trying to enshrine family rights for same-sex couples. These groups held a rally in Madrid on 28 March 1998 with the motto “Familias diversas, iguales derechos”.

The Congreso de Diputados held a vote on the amendments to the civil union legislation proposed by Partido Popular with amendments by PSOE and IU on 26 March 1998. These were rejected, with votes against it from CiU and PNV, and the abstention of Coalición Canaria. The latter was a surprise as the party had offered their own text, which had been given support by left-wing groups and the LGB movement. The IU and Nueva Izqueirda proposals had included adoption and immigration rights alongside other rights for couples.

The first actual national law related to de facto passed on 30 June 1998 as a result of the left and votes from CiU. This was not very welcome by the gay and lesbian community as it did not include any rights for couples, did not provide any recognition of couples as a family unit and did not provide adoption rights. It just appeared to create a list of couples. This 1998 law, cited in Gracias Trujillo’s 2009 work Deseo y resistencia. Treinta años de movilización lesbiana en el Estado español, is not referenced much elsewhere and does not seem to have come into practical effect.

Six of Spain’s autonomous regions were able to constitutionally create a number of their own laws related to things like inheritance and adoption as a result of historical laws called fuerres that pre-dated Franco. These were in Aragon, Balearic Islands, Catalonia, Galicia, Navarre, Basque Country. It was from these regions that autonomous communities would begin to start creating their own civil union laws with attached law starting in Catalonia in 1998, followed by Aragon in 1999, and Navarre in 2000.

Cataluña had the Ley 10/1998 de 15 de julio de Uniones Estables de Pareja which established civil unions in the region. The Catalan domestic registry in 1998 was one of the major deviations from the norm when it came to the recognition of familial affiliations in Spain. It recognized the parental rights of both mothers in de facto relationships regardless of material status. This uniqueness would remain true on both a regional and national level for over 10 years.

Ceuta created their own civil registry in 1998 with Reglamento de 11 de septiembre de 1998. Despite Ceuta passing a parejo de hecho law, it had limited benefits.  It did not provide rights to surviving member of a couple in a civil union living in a leased property under the name of a deceased partner. This nebulous situation continued past 2020.  It did not necessarily mean that the surviving member of the couple could not successfully apply for said right though. It also did not provide foster parenting rights or adoption rights.

Ceuta passed the law to create a domestic partner registry during the Pleno de la Asamblea de 11 de abril de 1997, agreeing to the registry that only came into force in September 1998 when the autonomous city was led by Partido Popular and Jesús Cayetano Fortes Ramos after the autonomous city had only had that status since 1995. The law created pareja de hechos for both same and opposite sex couples to be registered in the municipal government. The legislation said the unions were for “Stable unions constituted by people of different or same sex and the families derived from them may be registered”.[5] Couples requesting registration were required to not be married or registered in a domestic partnership or similar relationship elsewhere, be of legal age or emancipated minors, not be related via blood or adoption by the third degree, not be incapacitated and unable to give legal consent, and were registered with the municipality as residents.  Termination of the union did not require to be joint to happen. Couples would be given an Auxiliary Book similar to a Family Book.  The registry would be kept private to insure the privacy of the individuals and their families applying for pareja de hecho status. Entering into the status was also a voluntary process, which in a Spanish legal context means most of the paperwork is handled by the applicants.

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the decision was made inside FELGTB that the only common goal required of member organizations was they support efforts for same-sex marriage. Otherwise, they could work towards their own political goals without fearing interference from the parent organization. This helped to re-activate the organization and increase its importance and relevance nationally. They became the sole LGBT rights organization to serve as the voice of same-sex marriage, doing media engagements and promoting those goals.

In the west in the 1990s, there was often a narrative that gays and lesbians could not have a family of their own because they would be rejected. Thus, they had to build their own families through networks of support from friends, co-workers, religious communities and others. Spain rejected this as a narrative, and instead opted to fight for the concept of family through the demand for marriage equality and the right to have a family, including children, and that the right to family be enshrined in law. This type of approach began to happen in 1998 in Spain.

The Asamblea de Extremadura approved the Registro de Parejas de Hecho de Extremadura.  This legislation was toothless, in that it did not provide any benefits to couples at all and would be supplanted later by legislation that did.  It is this later legislation that is counted as the first civil union laws in the region.

Aragón had the Ley 6/1999 de 26 de marzo relativa a Parejas Estables No Casadas which established civil unions in the region. The law allowed for both same and opposite sex coupled to have a civil union with the preamble in the legislation referencing the need to address the situation for unmarried opposite couples dating back to 1982 and the Council of Europe and the European Union. It said that same-sex couples were no longer being viwed as strange and marginal.  Both groups needed a solution, for which civil unions offered a potential solution. The law provided means for the dissolution of the relationship, including how to deal with common offspring.  It also offered rights in the case of the death of one of the partners. It provided obligations to care for the other person in the relationship. It provided adoption rights, but only for heterosexual couples.  It also did not provide the ability for same-sex couples to become foster care parents.

Meetings were held across Spain in 2000 that were attended by representatives of various LGBT rights organizations. That year, the movement finally came together and made public demands for marriage, saying that de facto couple recognition was not enough. Part of this was strategic, with the view that if they asked for everything, conservative elements would have to make concessions or risk that in the medium-term homosexuals would ultimately get full fledged marriage equality. Their demands would force conservatives to reposition themselves or risk losing everything.

There were fears in the homosexual rights activist community by 2000 that the goal of marriage equality would demotivate activists out of frustration of not being able to accomplish their goals; the opposite actually occurred as people were more hopeful of a solution as they were already accustomed to working in situations where their goals were not accomplished.

The shift in focus by many organizations towards marriage equality was not universally well received within the LGTB community, and bolero feminist lesbian communities in particular. Colectivo de Lesbianas Feministas de Barcelona and other lesbian feminists in the early 2000s, along with queer activists criticize marriage law as a political priority for the LGBT community, especially as it seemed to put a pause on gender identity legislative goals. These activist did not like the heteronormative and patriarchal structures that were being replicated inside queer communities, especially as homophobia continued to be present inside Spanish culture.

Partido Popular continued in 2000 its opposition to same-sex marriage, offering civil unions as an alternative instead.  At the same time, some of its vocal and more visible members made public comments or private comments that leaked to the media that were homophobic. There were no openly gay or lesbian politicians in Partido Popular in 2000, none who could act as interlocutors within the party to offer a counter perspective like they had on some other issues like unions.

On 3 July 2000, with the passage of Ley Foral 6/2000 de 3 de julio para la Igualdad Jurídica de las Parejas Estables, Navarre became the first region to allow lesbians and gays to adopt. The law passed despite opposition from Navarrese People’s Union (UPN). COGAM spokesperson Beatriz Gimeno said of the passage of the law, “It is a great step forward because it breaks with the last social taboo that exists towards homosexuals.”

In granting recognition to defacto same-sex couples in Navarre in 2000, the law also allowed registered couples to be eligible to adopt children. Partido Popular challenged the legality of this, taking their efforts to the Constitutional Court. Navarre succeeded in defending their law. The success of their defense resulted in Asturias putting in similar adoption rights in their 2002 legislation. They were quickly followed by the Basque Country in early 2003. By 2003, all other autonomous communities considering de facto same-sex relationship registries all included adoption rights as part of such legislation.

Unión del Pueblo Navarro (UPN) and Partido Popular (PP) were opposed to the a De-Facto Couples Law in Navarre in 2000. The opposition parties were all united in their support for passage of the law. Izquierda Unida (IU) said that support for passage of the law was a requirement of them joining any coalition to form a regional government, which pushed the law forward. The law was written after consulting with Basque homosexual rights organization, which at the time were some of the most progressive in Spain.

Other regions not covered by fuerres soon also began creating civil registries including Castile-La Mancha in 2000, Valencia, the Balearic Islands and Madrid in 2001, Asturias, Castile y León and Andalucía in 2002, Extremadura, the Canary Islands, the Basque Country in 2003, Cantabria in 2005, Galicia and Melilla in 2008, La Rioja in 2010, Murcia in 2018. Some of these had created registries earlier, but had not provided any actual rights attached to the relationship in those earlier iterations.

Data from the Instituto Nacional de Estadística in 2001 compiled by Cortina, Laplante, Fostik, & Castro Martín (2012) suggested there were 10,474 same-sex couples cohobating in Spain that year compared to 9,500,603 opposite-sex couples. Of these same-sex cohabitating couples, males outnumbered females by almost 2 to 1, with 6,996 male couples to 3,478 female ones. This cohabitation mirrored later marriage rates by same-sex couples.

Another compilation of census data from 2001 found cohabitating lesbian couples in Spain overwhelming lived in urban areas at 79.05%, more so than their opposite-sex peers at 65.5% and gay male peers at 77.9%.  With only 27.9% of cohabitating lesbian couples having children, they were more likely than their gay male at 9.2% to have children but less likely than their straight counterparts at 68.1% to have them. Lesbians were overrepresented in some regions compared to their straight counterparts, including in the regions of the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, Madrid and Catalonia.  Lesbians appear to have left some regions where they were under represented compared to straight cohabitating couples, including in Murcia, the Basque Country, Andalucía, Aragón, La Rioja, Asturias, Galicia, Castilla – La Mancha, Castilla y León, Extremadura, Ceuta and Melilla.

FELGTB had become fully engaged on the issue of same-sex marriage by early 2000, and spent much of their political capital in 2001, with much of the talking done by Beatriz Gimeno, talking about a report on homosexual families, their experiences in other countries, international laws, the rights of children. The document was created to counter the anti-homosexual narrative that painted gay and lesbian parents as predators who raised their children to be deviant. It was about normalizing homosexual families. The report was titled Familias de hecho and published by FELGT in November 2000.

Starting around 2001, after Zapatero became the secretaría general of PSOE, PSOE changed how it talked about homosexual relationship rights to focus on family rights, with homosexuals being deserving of those.

In 2001, a lesbian couple in Barcelona went to a notary to try to record the rights of the non-biological mother of the couple’s child. After their efforts were shared with Partit dels Socialistes de Catalunya (PSC), the spokesperson for PSC called for same-sex marriage to become law to prevent the need for such situations happening in the future.

The Asamblea de Madrid agreed with the creation of a commission in 2001 to study the necessary formulas for the creation of a civil union process in the region with rights that could be extended along with that. CRECUL was part of the commission advising the assembly. By the end of the year, Madrid had the Ley 11/2001 de 19 de diciembre de Uniones de Hecho de la Comunidad de Madrid which established civil unions in the region.

Valencia had the Ley 1/2001 de 6 de abril por la que se regulan las Uniones de hecho which established civil unions in the region. When Valencia created a De-Facto Couples Law in 2001, the registration was for one year, and only allowed separation rights through private contract. It was the first region to pass such a law with a conservative government. They were soon followed by Madrid who also had a conservative government. Both regions required 1 year of cohabitation before being able to register; in the case of Madrid, that involved being able to have witnesses able to testify to that.

Another region also passed a civil union law in 2001. The Balearic Islands passed Ley 18/2001 de 19 de diciembre de Parejas Estables which established civil unions in the region.

While a regional civil registry had been created in 1998 in Extremadura that provided no legal benefits, efforts continued to change that situation and give male and female homosexuals full relationship and family rights in the region and nationally. The first draft of the proposed Ley de Parejas de Hecho de Extremadura in 2001 was rejected by the gay and lesbian activist community because it did not allow the possibility of homosexual couples adopting. The draft did allow for same-sex couples to be temporary foster parents though. Ley de Parejas de Hecho de Extremadura was finally passed by the regional assembly in 2003. Ley 5/2003, de 20 de marzo, de Parejas de Hecho de la Comunidad Autónoma de Extremadura required that couples in a de facto relationship be of legal age or emancipated minors, not already legally bound by marriage or in a registered domestic partnership, or be a a blood or adoptive relative to the third degree. The rights included but not limited to the ability have common property belonging to the couple, and will support the other member of the couple in proportion to their resources unless an agreement was created to the contrary. When couples separated, there was the ability to claim financial compensation of the relationship led to wealth inequality for one partner. The law also gave rights for couples to foster minors, and set up a process should the couple separate. It also established a system of social benefits, and a tax regime. It did not provide adoption rights, though it did create a guardianship and visitation regime for common sons and daughters in those relationships.

Lesbians still sought rights comparable to their opposite-sex counterparts in the broader framework of relationships despite Spanish political activities, and would sometimes try to use the courts to assert their desire for rights. This was true in the case of pension rights in this period. A lesbian couple from Andalucía became involved in 1984. They did everything they could since they were involved to legally bind themselves to each other. This included having joint checking accounts, listing both their names on a vehicle they owned and making sure they were listed as cohabitants. They registered as a de facto couple in 2000, as marriage and civil unions were not yet legally available. In 2002, one member of the couple died and in December of that year, she filed a claim with Spanish Social Security to try to collect a widow’s pension. The claim was denied as the state did not recognize her as being legally married. The rejection kick started a long legal process. The woman claimed she was discriminated against because of her orientation at the High Court of Justice of Andalucía, but they rejected the claim. She appealed to the Constitutional Court in February 2005. Her appeal was suspended in 2008 pending the result of a similar case. In June 2014, the Constitutional Court finally dismissed her appeal and denied her the right to a pension.

A shift occurred in the lesbian and gay political agenda in 2002, that would remain in place until 2005. It was during this period that marriage equality became the primary focus of many activists. This shift was foreseen based on activities the preceding year in both Spain and Portugal as lesbian and other homosexual rights advocates both began highly visible campaigns for same-sex marriage and addition rights. This new and more aggressive campaign marked their second major political push following the decriminalization of homosexuality, which largely was removed from the civil and penal code in Spain in 1978.

Asturias passed the Ley 4/2002 de Parejas Estables del Principado de Asturias.  The law established civil unions in the region, and in doing so made the region the second after Navarre to give same-sex couples the right to foster children. Andalucía followed later that year with fostering rights in their De Facto Couples Law. Both regions were led by progressive governments, required a year of cohabitation beforehand and separation rights were done via private contract.

Castilla y León passed the Decreto 117/2002 on 24 October 2002. The law regulated the civil union registry in the region, allowing both same and oppose sex couples who have lived together at least six months in the region to register. Their application required they be of legal age or emancipated minors, not be directly related by blood or adoption to the second degree, not already be bound by marriage or civil union to another, and not be legally incapacitated. Registration was free of charge.

The last region to create civil unions in 2002 was Andalucía, with Ley 5/2002 de 28 de diciembre de Parejas de Hecho de Andalucía. The statement of motives for the law says its purpose was, “to offer an instrument of legal support to de facto couples and, on the other, to extend to them the benefits that the regional system as a whole has been expressly conferring on marital unions. Thus, it should be noted that this regulation stems from respect for the freedom of individuals to regulate their own personal and property relationships, without subjecting them externally to greater requirements than those necessary to guarantee legal certainty.” Applicants needed to be residents of Andalucía, of legal age or emancipated minors, not related via blood or adoption to the second degree, and not already linked to another person via marriage or previous registered common-law partnership, and cohabitation of a year before applying for the status.  The law did give couples the ability to become foster parents and prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation of applicants seeking to become foster parents.  It did not provide adoption rights.

A 2003 pan European study by Gallup found that Spain was the fifth most accepting country of homosexuals with 68% of the country supporting same-sex marriage. It was the third most favorable of thirty European countries toward same-sex couple adoption at 57%.

Three more regions added civil unions to their books in 2003.  Those were Extremadura with Ley de Parejas de Hecho de, the Canary Islands with Ley 5/2003 de las Parejas de Hecho de la Comunidad Autónoma de Canarias which established and the Basque Country with  Ley 2/2003, de 7 de mayo, reguladora de las parejas de hecho.

While marriage equality would become even more of a focus on a national level, Spain continued to address other family-related issues that impacted lesbians including assisted reproduction. The 1988 Spanish Law on Assisted Reproduction was modified in November 2003, with the purpose of clarifying what happened to unclaimed surplus frozen embryo and to avoid the creation of more unclaimed surplus frozen embryo. Prior to the passage of this law, frozen embryos could either be donated for use by other couples, donated for research purposes or destroyed. After this modification, frozen embryos could only be used for reproductive purposes with the exception of frozen embryos created before November 2003, which could continue to be used for research purposes. A modification, done by Royal Decree, also limited the number of eggs to be extracted and fertilized to three. Despite this and because it was done only via Royal Decree, infertility clinics continued to collect more than three fertilized embryos.

The Law of Assisted Reproduction Techniques (45/2003, November 21st) did not allow lesbian spouses to donate eggs to one another, only allowing lesbian couples to accept anonymous egg donations. Heterosexual couples were allowed to have the man donate his sperm for use in IVF procedures. This created a situation where lesbian couples had de facto fewer rights under the law than heterosexual couples despite stated desires for equality for everyone under the law.

Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela said in December 2003 that same-sex marriage represented a threat to the coffers of Spanish Social Security. His comments were then backed by the Ministro de Hacienda Cristóbal Montoro, who went further saying that widowhood pensions would need to be funded by tax increases, and marriage equality would result in loss of jobs, putting Spain’s model for economic growth at risk. He was fiercely criticized for those statements, especially as he was unable to provide evidence to back up his claims. The Cardinal was also criticized for meddling in Spanish economic affairs to support his moral argument.

As a result of their repeated statements on same-sex marriage, the Catholic Church was criticized in 2003 and 2004 for not knowing their place in a Spanish democracy by trying to impose their moral standards and beliefs on everyone in the country, obstructing the advancement of equal rights and human rights while at the same time also getting government funding.

2004 represented a shift in Spanish politics on the issue of marriage equality with some left-wing parties having electoral programs supporting same-sex marriage. Their narrow same-sex marriage-based solution was viewed as providing a broad-spectrum solution to discrimination faced by lesbians and gays in Spain. The Catholic Church and Partido Popular argued that lesbians and gays are unequal citizens, existing in a special other category of citizenship. As such, these conservative groups argued that lesbians and gays should not be afforded the rights afforded to equal, non-othered citizens. This allowed them also to oppose adoption by same-sex couples. The left’s position was strengthened to a certain degree by the fact that twelve of Spain’s nineteen regions had passed some form of same-sex partnership registry or civil union related law at that point.

In 2004, RTVE ran a report titled ‘Mujer quiere a mujer. Madres invisibles’ about a five lesbians, single and in couples, who wanted to become mothers. The documentary looked at the existing homoparental families, the need to be closeted, and the legal barriers lesbians faced in creating their own families as they lived on the invisible borders of society.

Labels, language and identity

The start of the new millennium saw a shift in everyday Spanish language that would eventually impact lesbians. Género had largely not been used. Instead, the phrase “estereotipos sexuales” was used, being used by a variety of feminist and lesbian writers including Carmen de Burgos, Clara Campoamor, Germaine Greer, Elaine Morgan and Simone de Beauvoir. Feminism began to be used less, and the phrase “violencia machista” started to be phased out in favor of “violencia de género”. This removed feminist discourse from discussions about violence, removed sexual aspects of violence enacted against window and replaced it with a patriarchal gender approach, explicitly stating that women were no longer repressed because of their sex but because of their gender.

Lesbian and future Podemos representative Beatriz Gimeno would be among those feminists in Spain who led in changing of terms, of removing the concept of sex and replacing it with gender, in political and feminist discourse; this allied her more with queer theory and transgender people. Her support proposed that sex distinctions were what the Spanish right and ultra-Catholics were doing and not what the left should be doing.

In the 2001 edition of Diccionario de la lengua española, tortlero is for the first time defined as being a derogatory term, instead of just defining it lesbiana. It is also the first time that tortlero is indicated as a word used to describe lesbians and not just, as it had been exclusively defined since 1927, one who makes tortillas.


Despite the shift towards LGBT organizations by a number of lesbians, some lesbian feminist groups, feminist lesbian groups and lesbian feminist magazines continued to hold on in Spain with the notable exception of the Basque Country where all lesbian feminist groups folded. These included the lesbian feminist collective of Asturias Desde el Silencio, Barcelona Grup de Lesbianes which became Tribades, CRECUL and Lesbianas Sin Duda in Madrid, the La Rioja lesbian feminist collective Bailas, and the Bollus Vivendi fanzine. Colectivo de Feministas Llesbianes de Asturias disappeared from Asturias in 1997.

CRECUL continued to be active in the Aznar period, both in their political efforts on behalf of lesbians and in their more general support of lesbian life and lesbian causes in Madrid. They held meetings on Monday and Fridays at 20:00 to 22:00. They also produced a magazine during the late 1990s called Informales.

CRECUL tried to organize a Asamblea Estatal de Lesbianas in the late 1990s; they met huge resistance as by that point, lesbian feminist groups were hugely embedded inside feminist structures and felt the need to maintain their hard fought for autonomy inside militant feminist circles. The idea was never able to get off the ground in the 1990s.

Jornadas de Lesbianas Feministas were held in Bilbao in 1997 at a time when lesbian feminist groups were going through a lot of difficulties, with many having disappeared in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Lesbian feminists from Córdoba, Bilbao, Oviedo, Gijón, Torrelavega, Salamanca, Santiago de Compostela, Bilbao, San Sebastián, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Logroño, Pamplona, Madrid, Murcia, Valencia and Barcelona attended.

Euskal Herriko Lesbianen III was the third edition of lesbian groups gathering in the Basque country. It took place in Bilbao in 1997 from 6 – 8 December. The tradition to a new style of activism and the splits in activism goals were present at the meeting over issues like transsexuality, making it one the last of its kind in the Basque Country, gradually disappearing in 2005 when Bizkaiko Lesbiana Feministen Kolektiboaren was formally dissolved.

During the late 1990s, a group of transwomen asked Asociación Feminista de Autodefensa Walkirias for a session for transwomen. The feminist self-defense association said no, because their focus was on assisting women who had been born girls. This created a conflict with transgender groups that they were not prepared for. The Insituto de Mujeres though stood with them, and they learned to grow both as lesbians and feminists.

Las Goudous were an autonomous lesbian group in Madrid created in the late 1990s after LSD. They met at Eskalera Karakola. They were also critical of the militant feminist movement’s exclusion of lesbians from their discourse and rejected the double militancy of lesbian feminists.

The Summer 2000 edition of Menos Lobos by Asamblea de Mujeres de Granada was a monography dedicated to exploring the intersections between homosexuality and lesbianism.

Córdoba hosted the 2000 state feminist conference, with over 3,000 women participating. Many of them were young. The conference attracted feminists from a diverse swath of Spanish feminist perspectives. It would help mobilize the next generation of Spanish feminists, including lesbians in those circles. Transwomen were included in it, and there were transwomen participating in it including Laura Bugalho of the Colectivo Trans Galicia and Identidad de Género president Kim Pérez. They each presented a session. Transfeminism was also defined for the first time in a Spanish context. The transfeminist movement would not start fully until 2009.

Gretel Ammann died on 2 May 2000 in Barcelona. Following the death of Getel Ammann in 2000, Lola Majoral became the keeper of her legacy. She donated many items to Ca la Dona as part of these efforts. She has continued to advocate for lesbian rights at conferences, in performances, in round table discussions and on radio and television.

CRECUL Madrid was created with a regional scope in 2002, focusing on the needs of lesbian culture and lesbian studies in Madrid. When CRECUL Madrid was reformed in 2002, it specifically set out to integrate Spanish lesbian and bisexual women, alongside foreign and immigrant lesbian and bisexual women to make sure the rights of both of the latter were defended in Spain. In March 2002, Elena de León was relieved of the presidency of CRECUL by Esther Silgo. Sligo only remained in charge for a year, and then citing work commitments, left in 2003. Elena de León then was re-elected as president

Prominent Spanish feminist Amelia Valcárcel started the Escuela Feminista Rosario de Acuña in 2003. This school was similar to jornadas, and would continue to the present as one of the most important and influential feminist voices in Spain. The school would address issues such as who was a woman and be involved in second wave and fourth wave feminist activism. The school would go on to play a critical role in separating Spanish feminism from queer theory.

Vito Virtudes, a lesbian activist, militant feminist, abortion rights activist and expert in sexual and reproductive health served as the spokesperson of Clínica Dator, a reproductive health clinic in Madrid that offers abortion services, around 2004.

Queer lesbianism and bollero feminism

The commercialization of Orgullo and the shift towards queer feminism by some lesbians, along with adopting a pro-sex, anti-prohibitionist viewpoint meant the late 1990s and early 2000s were a difficult period for lesbian bollera militants. These challenges were made even more difficult by the fact that state feminism also started to make the shift from traditional feminism to queer feminism, leaving lesbians without state support and institutional feminism to address their specific needs as women and homosexuals.

The bollero feminist movement came out of Madrid, and experienced growth in the late 1990s as feminist lesbians looked for a new space in the emerging queer spaces. These lesbian spaces were intentionally inclusive of transwomen, with both groups having low visibility that that time. The movement was critical of capitalistic cultural and mainstream lesbianism where lesbians got married and had children, mimicking hetero norms. Because of their marginalization, the movement soon attracted a bit more racial diversity than other parts of the Spanish LGBT and feminist movements.

fanzine bollus vivendi was a magazine published in Madrid from 1999 to 2001. It represented one of the shifts for some lesbians, moving from lesbian feminist to queer feminism. It highlighted the conflict between the pro-sex versus abolitionist feminism in Madrid, pitting lesbians who support BDSM, prostitution and pornography against those who wanted that to be prohibited. It also represented the shift for lesbian queer feminists away from Lavapies to Chueca.

Starting in the early 2000s, some lesbians begin organizing drag king workshops, and producing lesbian centric porn in Spain. By 2006, they were integrated into Spain’s pink market.

Homosexual and trans rights activism

The José Maria Aznar period between 1996 and 2004 would see the national influence of smaller, loosely organized LGTB rights in Barcelona begin to fade, and be replaced by national organizations in Madrid. Disconnected groups would become more connected, and, while local activism continued, issues impacting lesbians, gays and bisexuals were often being tackled on a more regional and national level.

Fundación Triángulo was founded as a mixed gay, lesbian and trans group in 1996 after splitting from COGAM. Despite being mixed, they have always had a minority lesbian membership. Fundación Triángulo was founded as a moderate group, critical of gay and lesbian identity, and of events like Pride. That was part of the reason they eventually create a women’s section in 2003.

Later that year, Fundación Triángulo organized the International Festival of Lesbian, Gay and Transexual Cinema in Madrid for the first time in 1996. The festival would go on to play an important role in facilitating social change by normalizing the depictions of lesbians and gays.  It was only the second LGTB film festival to take place in Spain’s history.

New local chapters of Confederación Española de Lesbianas, Gais, Bisexuales y Transexuales (COLEGA) were founded across Andalucía in this period. Cadiz’s COLEGA chapter was founded in 1996. The COLEGA Granada and Huelva branches were founded in 1998. COLEGA Jaén was founded in 1999. Almería’s COLEGA chapter was founded in 2000.COLEGA chapters then started to be founded outside Andalucía, with a Madrid branch founded in 2002 and a Valencia branch in 2003.

During the late 1990s, there was a split on the issue of outing people as homosexuals. COGAM was opposed to it. CLFM supported it as a weapon they could use to raise awareness.

Members of the Asturias LGBT community created the Plataforma Contra la Homofobia in the late 1990s, which affirmed that homosexual rights were human rights. They wanted to frame it this way to show that they were human and had valid concerns, that their concerns were not exclusive to just the affected group.

During the mid and late 1990s, mixed lesbian and gay organizations again became the dominant organization model in the Basque country in a return to the situation following the immediate death of Franco. This time, they were joined by transgender people, with the theoretical models for understanding militancy being lowered and organizations switched at times to a more service model. Unlike other parts of Spain, lesbian feminist collectives disappeared in the Basque Country.

Fundación Triángulo Extremadura was created in 1997 to build on the initial energy of de Par en Par, and to work towards improving the life of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals in Extremadura. Its purpose was to advocate politically in defense of LGBT rights in the region. Early membership for the group came from the same people who were involved in de Par en Par.

A campaign called ‘Quiérete’ was started in Extremadura in 1997 aimed at improving the self-esteem of LGBT youth in the region. It is unclear who organized it, though it was likely Fundación Triángulo or de Par en Par.

A concentration took place in front of a pub in Solares, Cantabria in 1997 following homophobic discrimination by the pub. The concentration was organized by ALEGA. The situation was covered by local media at the time. It served as a lesson for some shops in the region at the time that they should not discriminate against homosexual clients.

Col.lectiu de Lesbianas La Lluna, Castellón were one of a number of lesbian, and gay and lesbian organizations talking in the late 1990s about the need to increase the visibility of members of the LGB community in order to be able to better advance their rights.

Colectivo de Gais y Lesbianas de Salamanca (COGLES) talked about the need to increase the visibility of gays and lesbians in 1997 as a means of escaping the homosexual ghetto.

Zero was a national LGBT publication published between 1998 and 2009 in Madrid, with 120 editions when it finally stopped printing. Despite helping to make homosexuality more visible in Spain, it never had a lesbian on its cover. The magazine went up for auction in 2011, and in August 2015 it was bought by David Torres Andreu who then relaunched the magazine in a digital format.

COGAM changed the name of the Comisión de Mujeres to Grupo de Lesbianas in 1998. The motivation for changing the name was to increase the visibility of lesbians inside the organization, especially as it related to dealing with outsiders including funding bodies and the general public. Boti García, Patricia Ojeda and Beatriz Gimeno were some of the women involved in making the name change, which occurred after informal meetings by a small number of members.

Teatro López de Ayala in Badajoz hosted I Muestra de Cine Gay Lésbico de Extremadura in 1998. This was the first gay and lesbian film festival to be hosted in Extremadura and only the third ever to be held in Spain. The first film screened at the festival The Celluloid Closet, a 1995 American documentary looking at the history of homosexuality in Hollywood.  By the festival’s fifth edition, it would be known as FanCineGay. When Muestra de Cine Gay Lésbico de Extremadura first started, it faced a perception issue.  People who were outside the LGBT community often asked if all the films were pornographic as that the main way they knew about gays and lesbians through movies.

In 1999, Fundación Triángulo Extremadura successfully lobbied to have the blood donation rules by Servicio Extremeño de Salud be changed to no longer exclude homosexual and bisexual men just because they are homosexual and bisexual. This did not impact lesbian and bisexual women as they were not viewed as being at elevated risk to donate blood to begin with.

COGLES launched a postcard campaign in the second quarter of 1999, where members came out of the closet by distributing postcards to members of the public with the phrase, “[t]engo el placer de comunicarte que, sobre todo, me gustan las personas de mi mismo género. Es decir, soy lesbiana/gai. Puedes por ello dejar de considerarme heterosexual.” This translated to, “I have the pleasure of communicating to you that, above all, I like people of the same gender. That is, I am a lesbian / gay. You can stop considering me heterosexual.” This campaign was one of the most important of its kind in the mid to late-1990s in Spain.

During the 1990s and early 2000s, lesbians continued to represent a small percentage of membership in gay groups. They were often shunted off to their own groups inside those organizations in the same way that a soccer group could be shunted off. These lesbian and women’s groups were often expendable to the male dominated group as the men did not care about them, only that they had a few lesbians around for the sake of appearances.

Transexualia joined FEGL in 2001 after the XIII Encuentros Estatales de LGTB in November in Granada. It was at that meeting that the decision was made to add the T to the organization’s name and put the L before the G to increase lesbian visibility.

The percentage of lesbians in COGAM had settled to around 25% by 2001.

The Festival Internacional de Cinema Gai i Lèsbic de Barcelona premiered in October 2001. The festival has offered awards in several categories; none have been explicitly for lesbian films, though lesbian films have won awards. Sixty films were shown at the first festival.

Atención Social a Homosexuales y Transexuales opened in Madrid in 2002. It was the first center of its kind in Spain. It was later renamed the Programa de Información y Atención a personas LGTBI. The service provided legal advice, along with social and psychological care to people who were rejected by family and friends or faced discrimination in the workplace beause of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

XEGA presented an educational guide on 23 April 2002 that called for respecting the differences in sexual orientation, homosexuality and lesbianism, in the classroom. The curriculum was unique for its time in Spain and consisted of 11 didactic units. It covered gender, sex and sexual orientation. It also covered the history of homosexuality, homophobia and LGBT tolerance in Asturias. It also talked about lesbian motherhood and gay fatherhood.

Hospital Universitario Marqués de Valdecilla in Santander continued to bar gay and bisexual men from donating blood in 2003. This issue was a continuing issue around Spain, and one lesbians sometimes worked on in mixed groups.

Jennifer Quiles participated in the 2003 Primeras Jornadas Lésbicas de la FELGT edition held in Madrid by giving a presentation reflecting on the negative values society attributed to lesbians for being both women and homosexuals, and how this equation needed to be changed.

The I Jornadas cómo hablar sobre homosexualidad a los niños took place in 2003 at the Universidad de Extremadura campus in Badajoz. The event was organized by Fundación Triángulo Extremadura.  


The Aznar period started off on a positive note as it related to lesbians and their relationship to AIDS / HIV compared to previous years. After that, it returned to the awful situation it had always generally existed in. LSD continued to be active addressing the issue. On International Day of the Fight against AIDS that took place on 1 December 1996, Lesbianas Sin Duda protested on the street in front of the Ministerio de Sanidad again, demanding intervention to combat the AIDS epidemic taking place in the country.

That year, COGAM ran a campaign saying lesbians were not immune to AIDS. However, unlike their campaigns aimed at men, they did not use photographs of women but instead used ballpoint pen sketches. The advice focused on oral practices like cunninglus and through penetrative practices using toys or fingers.

In, de Par en Par started planning an HIV / AIDS initiative that they formally launched on 1 December 1996. As part of a media interview related to it, José María Núñez said that HIV did not distinguish between race, sex or class. Despite the for its time revolutionary statement, the campaign was pretty much focused on gay men to the exclusion of lesbian safe-sex practices.

For lesbians with AIDS in the late 1990s, the local support organization was in Alicante was Colectivo de Gays y Lesbianas.  In Cordoba and Sevilla, it was COLEGA – Colectivo de Lesbianas y Gays. The Granada support group was NOS, Asociación andaluza de Gays y Lesbianas.  Málaga lesbians had COLEGA, Colectivo de Lesbianas y Gays. Lesbians in Valencia with AIDS could get support from Col-lective Lambda de Gais i Lesbianes. For lesbians with AIDS in Zaragoza, their point of contact was LYGA, Lesbianas y Gays de Aragón.

Lesbians continued to rarely ever the target of general campaigns by the Spanish state to combat HIV and AIDS in the late 1990s and all the way into the early 2010s. One of the first such general campaigns not aimed explicitly at gay men was launched in 1999 for World AIDS Day, and was about the use of condoms in AIDS prevention. General campaigns in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 also failed to address women who had sex with women. The government did have specific campaigns for men who had sex with men in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2014 and 2017. The government also had campaigns aimed at young people, for which women who had sex with women were not mentioned in their campaigns in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2012. Among 38 campaigns to fight AIDS and HIV by the government between 1998 and 2012, only two even featured any pictures of women having sex with women, but the text and surrounding discussion made clear that these images were not designed to educate lesbians on safe sex practices but instead intended to capture heterosexual male audiences to educate them.

Coordinadora gai-lesbiana, stop sida produced a pamphlet in collaboration with the Ministerio de Sanidad y Consumo in 1997 titled, “Estás Cambiando la Historia”[6] about the history of HIV and AIDS in the gay collective. It featured a shirtless man on the front, talked about safe sex, condom usage and lubricant. It did mention that women, bisexuals and heterosexuals could get HIV, and that HIV could be transmitted from vaginal fluid. Despite being produced by an organization based in Barcelona by a gay and lesbian organization intended for national distribution, the word lesbian never appeared in connection to getting the virus.

Beyond the lack of educational materials available for lesbians, there was also a lack of research done in Spain in the period between 1998 and 2012 on the sexual behavior of lesbians and other women who had sex with women, or statistics on prevalence inside this group for any sexually transmitted disease. Scholars have attributed the lack of research in this area to machoism and sexism in general, and as a result of pressure from the LGBT community who do not view lesbians as important as they are viewed as lower risk for contracting AIDS with the belief that resources should not be diverted away from gay men and transwomen towards lesbians.

The situation for lesbians as it related to the AIDS crisis remained much the same for the 2000s with the exception that medical advances during the late 1990s had begun to make AIDS a less deadly. This included the approval of a protease inhibitor, highly active antiretroviral therapy, and new methods of HIV testing. AIDS deaths for women had peaked for women in 1996 with 1,137 deaths but were 555 in 1997 and in the 300s until 2002 when they dipped below that number for the first time since 1990. Similar patterns in AIDS related deaths played out for Spanish men. By the end of the decade, there would be only 207 AIDS related deaths for women.


            One of the major characteristics of Orgullo in the Aznar area was the decreased visibility of lesbians as a unique class at the Pride events.  This was coupled with increased commercialization, and increased sexualization of the event, especially as it pertained to male bodies.  While not discussed much in academic research related to the topic, total media references to lesbian participation drop in this period and alongside actual lesbian participation as male sexuality becomes the overriding narrative when Orgullo was not focused on explicit political issues like marriage equality.

The Madrid 1996 Orgullo march, called Día del Orgullo de Gays, Lesbianas y Transexuales, had a route from Puerta de Alcalá to Puerta del Sol. That year was also the second year that Pride was a weekend affair. More than 2,000 people participated. The march included the first float. Several lesbian organizations participated including LSD, Feminista de Lesbianas, and Coletivos de Gays y Lesbianas. Mili Hernández was involved with the march. The march took place in 30 degree weather, and started with a lesbian orchestra leading the way. They were followed by a float full of transvestites dressed in carnival type costumes, and followed later by more male nudity. There was little female nudity in the event. Since then, the political aspects of Madrid Pride have been overshadowed by continued commercialization of the event as it attracted ever more media attention. One group that was less supportive of Orgullo was Fundación Triángulo. They were founded in as a mixed gay and lesbian group in 1996 after splitting from COGAM.

Colectivu de Feministes Llesbianes dAsturies and XEGA’s theme for the 1996 Orgullo march in Gijon was lesbian visibility. A secondary focus was also on the legal recognition of homosexual couples in public institutions like the justice system, healthcare, education along with recognition in private institutions like banking and insurance.

Agerian Lesbianen Taldea organized events coinciding with Pride in Bilbao in the late 1990s, alongside those of other gay and lesbian groups.

Orgullo was celebrated in Cáceres and Badajoz in 1997. Posters advertising Orgullo 1997 featured hearts with the names of two women and two men.

Orgullo festivities in Madrid in 1998 included a kissing protest with around 10,000 people participating.  The route ran from Puerta de Alcalá to Sol.  The manifesto was demand for same-sex marriage and was read by singer Massiel.

Around 200,000 people attend Madrid 1999 Orgullo in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the original march in New York.  The route from from Puerta de Alcalá to Sol, and was a party atmosphere feature male sexuality on display in leather clothing and tiny underwear.

The area around and in Chueca in Madrid had become pedestrianized during Orgullo as a result of the influx of visitors to the neighborhood looking to celebrate pride by the early 2000s. By that time, COGAM had been working with the townhall of Madrid to issue permits for parties in the area during Pride Week. The organization was also getting subsidies from the government for their work related to assisting with permitting. This activity was criticized by some protesters as they felt it contributed to the commercialization of Orgullo at the expense of political goals of the LGBT movement.

Starting in 2000, newspapers in Spain began giving positive media coverage to Orgullo manifestations across Spain.

Colectivo Lambda decided in 2000 that they would organize Pride in Valencia as a demonstration instead of a concentration, with the march starting at Plaza de la Reina and ending in the Plaza Tavernes de la Valldigna. Following the demonstration, Colectivo Lambda organized a street party.

There were 70,000 participants at the 2000 Orgullo Madrid event.  Organizers had a higher estimate at around 100,000 participants. Political parties were at the front of the march. Around 2000, the high heels race was added to the Orgullo festivities that took place in Chueca around the march. The participants are traditionally men.

There were 150,000 participants at the 2001 Orgullo Madrid event. Media depictions of Orgullo 2001 Madrid featured more men barely clothed, some in bondage type gear.  The few pictures of women available did not show them in sexualized outfits.

The theme of the 2001 Orgullo march in San Sebastian was same-sex marriage, and a demand by marchers that this legislation be passed now. The march was organized by the Associación de gays y lesbians del País Vasco. It had the support of the local townhall.

There were more 350,000 participants at the 2002 Orgullo Madrid event.

Foro Extremeño por la Diversidad Afectivo Sexual was created in Extremadura in 2002 to promote Orgullo across the whole of the region. The first such event organized through the group was held on 28 June 2002 at Plaza de San Francisco in Badajoz.

A kiss-in event was held in late June 2003 in Badajoz, with 300 people attending the rally in Plaza de San Francisco, to support gay and lesbian rights. Among the attendees were a woman named María and her partner, Angel who was an IU Concilor from Ayuntamiento de Nogales, a gay man named Roberto who lost friends in the AIDS epidemic, parents and grandparents of gays and lesbians, and a drag queen. The plaza had music, balloons and was bedecked in rainbow flags. The rally was called for by Fundación Triángulo de Extremadura, Somosiguales.Net, De Par en Par Joven, FanCineGay.Com. El Arrabal, IU, Juventudes Socialistas, Alternativa Joven, Comité extremeño contra el Racismo, la Xenofobia y la Intolerancia, el Consejo de la Juventud de Extremadura, la Universidad, Malvaluna, Tremm and Mujeres Jóvenes. It took place as part of Orgullo celebrations.

There were more 500,000 participants at the 2003 Orgullo Madrid event.

Since the mid-2000s, and possibly earlier, the Orgullo events had been a gathering for many lesbians who live not just in Santiago de Compostela but also in rural parts of Galicia. Traveling to Santiago meant that they did not need to travel to Madrid or Barcelona to find other lesbians.

[1] Spanish: comunidad autónoma (C. A.)​

[2] English: De facto unions.

[3] English: Domestic partnerships.

[4] English: Gay marriage.

[5] Spanish: podrán inscribirse las uniones estables constituidas por personas de distinto o del mismo sexo y las familias derivadas de las mismas.

[6] English: You’re changing history.

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