When the Spanish parliament yesterday took its historic vote legalizing both gay marriage and adoption of children by gay couples, Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who put the full prestige of his office and party behind passage of the gay human rights legislation -- made probably the most remarkable speech in favor of full equality for those with same-sex hearts ever delivered by a head of government anywhere, in which he quoted two of the most illustrious gay poets in history. Here are excerpts from Zapatero's speech:
"We are not legislating, honorable members, for people far away and not known by us. We are enlarging the opportunity for happiness to our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends and our families: at the same time we are making a more decent society, because a decent society is one that does not humiliate its members.
"In the poem 'The Family,' our [gay] poet Luis Cernuda was sorry because, 'How does man live in denial in vain / by giving rules that prohibit and condemn?'
Today, the Spanish society answers to a group of people who, during many years have, been humiliated, whose rights have been ignored, whose dignity has been offended, their identity denied, and their liberty oppressed. Today the Spanish society grants them the respect they deserve, recognizes their rights, restores their dignity, affirms their identity, and restores their liberty.
"It is true that they are only a minority, but their triumph is everyone's triumph. It is also the triumph of those who oppose this law, even though they do not know this yet: because it is the triumph of Liberty. Their victory makes all of us (even those who oppose the law) better people, it makes our society better. Honorable members, There is no damage to marriage or to the concept of family in allowing two people of the same sex to get married. To the contrary, what happens is this class of Spanish citizens get the potential to organize their lives with the rights and privileges of marriage and family. There is no danger to the institution of marriage, but precisely the opposite: this law enhances and respects marriage.
"Today, conscious that some people and institutions are in a profound disagreement with this change in our civil law, I wish to express that, like other reforms to the marriage code that preceded this one, this law will generate no evil, that its only consequence will be the avoiding of senseless suffering of decent human beings. A society that avoids senseless suffering of decent human beings is a better society.
"With the approval of this Bill, our country takes another step in the path of liberty and tolerance that was begun by the democratic change of government. Our children will look at us incredulously if we tell them that many years ago, our mothers had less rights than our fathers, or if we tell them that people had to stay married against their will even though they were unable to share their lives. Today we can offer them a beautiful lesson: every right gained, each access to liberty has been the result of the struggle and sacrifice of many people that deserve our recognition and praise.
"Today we demonstrate with this Bill that societies can better themselves and can cross barriers and create tolerance by putting a stop to the unhappiness and humiliation of some of our citizens. Today, for many of our countrymen, comes the day predicted by Kavafis [the great Greek gay poet] one century ago:
'Later 'twas said of the most perfect society / someone else, made like me / certainly will come out and act freely.' "
July 1, 2005