“Emilio, do you want to marry Carlos?”. It was a July afternoon in 2005 when in Spain, in the plenary hall of Madrid’s Tres Cantos City Hall, a phrase was heard that for the first time included the names of two people of the same sex. The two “yes I want” pronounced with a masculine voice, that of Carlos Baturín and that of Emilio Menéndez, and without bridal bouquets to which they clung made history. In 2020, there are already thirty countries in the world that have legalized this type of unions, after Costa Rica’s change in legislation of May 26, which means that there are hundreds of nations left to do it. In that 2005, passing an equal marriage law was even more unlikely.
The first days after that first wedding were not all joy, remembers Carlos Baturín. “They were quite restless. We found out very shortly before we were married that we were going to be the first. The second wedding, between two girls in Barcelona, did not happen up to 11 days later from ours. At that time, we were the only ones in all of Spain married and I was afraid that they could declare it null. I came to think that we were going to be the only ones to dare ”. Her husband, Emilio Menéndez, explains the great change that contracted marriage after 30 years of an often clandestine relationship. “Years before, if we saw that a person was looking at us insistently in a cafe, we would get up and leave. It was a constant feeling of oppression ”, he now tells Nadia Martín on camera.
First wedding between two people of the same sex, days after the approval of the law that allows these unions. Emilio Menéndez (i) and Carlos Baturín receive a rain of rice, after the ceremony officiated by the IU spokesperson at the Tres Cantos City Council, José Luis Martínez Cestau / RICARDO GUTIÉRREZ
The journalist has collected testimonies from some of the protagonists of a historical event for Spain and for the world. With her words she commemorates the 15th anniversary of equal marriage, approved on June 30 of that year. The recording is part of the virtual program that the Collective of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals of Madrid (COGAM) has organized for this particular edition of the LGTBI + Pride, affected by the sanitary measures that marks the recently released new normality. Starting this Monday, the 35-minute medium-length film will be available for free on the association’s YouTube channel.
The memories of Carlos and Emilio, and also of the current director of the Women’s Institute, Beatriz Gimeno, and the lawyer and activist Desirée Chacón, among others, reconstruct a story that seeks “to recover a part of the memory of our country, even if it is recent,” explains journalist and documentary filmmaker Nadia Martín by phone. A conjunction of factors and much common effort worked the so-called “miracle” of turning Spain into a pioneer country in social rights; the third in the world to approve this law, after the Netherlands and Belgium and a few days before Canada did.
Carlos and Emilio now remember their 45 years as a couple / COGAM
One of those factors that helped achieve this was the audacity of a group of activists, such as Beatriz Gimeno herself and the deceased. Pedro Zerolo, who made the leap to politics after the electoral victory of the socialist José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in 2000. Together they knew how to add to the support of Spanish society that of legal and political institutions. After the protests that were repeated in the streets since the late 90s came the legal arguments. Zerolo had been years compiling dozens of folios, with impressions of the BOE, codes and more than 60 laws to review. They thus achieved a reform in the civil code that went beyond their initial intentions: they achieved more than just a regulation of de facto couples with which the dialogue around the rights of homosexual couples in Spain had begun. That the LGTBI + community agreed to marriage was the first step so that “legal equality, necessary at specific times, also became real equality, day by day,” says Nadia Martín.
In addition to remembering the feat in a Spain in which there was no parliamentary presence of extreme right-wing parties, the interviewees stop to reflect on what goals are pending, 15 years later, in the fight for equality for the group. The rights and visibility of the trans community, the defense of LGTBI + children through education and the fight against hate crimes are some of them. “The World Health Organization removed transsexualism from its list of mental illnesses in 2018. But that gesture has not yet been translated into laws that advocate for the equality of trans people. In Spain, they are still obliged to go through pathologizing processes, by psychiatrists who diagnose gender dysphoria, because the Sexual Identity Law has become obsolete, ”regrets the journalist and COGAM collaborator. “And let’s not forget that, before the pandemic hit, Vox’s parental pin it was a matter that was on everyone’s lips. ”