On July 11th 2005, in the registry office of a Madrid suburb, two gay men made history in Spain by exchanging marriage vows. It was a momentous occasion, not just for the couple who had been together for 30 years without the legal right to marry, but also for a nation which had been fiercely divided over the contentious issue of gay marriage.
Gay marriage laws
The law allowing gays and lesbians to marry, adopt children and enjoy all the same freedoms and rights as heterosexuals was passed in June 2005. It brought down the full wrath of the Spanish Catholic church, the Vatican and Spain's Conservative right wingers on the heads of the country's socialist government.
But this hugely controversial change in the law was widely welcomed by the Spanish people who are extraordinarily broadminded when it comes to matters of sexuality. Despite being a staunchly Catholic country, Spain has allowed gay communities to flourish since the demise of the fascist dictator Franco in 1975. This surprising tolerance has undoubtedly been spawned in part by years of repression during which gays were persecuted, punished and even rounded up and interned in special penal camps.
Some history on being Gay in Spain
Spain's most famous 20th century poet, Frederico Lorca, was executed and his body tossed into a mass grave on the orders of Franco who objected to his poetry, his republican leanings and most of all his homosexuality.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, those found guilty of homosexual acts were burnt at the stake in Spain's public squares. These days the country boasts some of the most popular gay centres in Europe and some of the world's most enlightened laws regarding the rights and freedoms of homosexuals.
Gays, lesbians and transgender people are free to cruise the well known gay quarters, parks, sand dunes and beaches of the country's major cities and most popular coastal resorts without hindrance (and generally without attracting abuse).
Gay tourism has become a thriving industry since democracy took the place of dictatorship. In many areas with flourishing gay communities you can pick up booklets and maps detailing all the cruising areas and gay-friendly bars, restaurants, saunas and night spots.
Spain's top gay spots include the seaside town of Sitges (Left), 35 kilometres south of Barcelona, an area known as L'Eixample, the Chueca quarter of Madrid and the twin resorts of Playa del Ingles and Playa de Maspalomas on the Canary island of Gran Canaria.
Torremolinos is one of the Costa del Sol's favoured gay haunts along with the Campo de Sol nudist beach at Malaga. Gay visitors tend to steer clear of glitzy Marbella which is the place to see and be seen if you're rich, famous… and unequivocally heterosexual!