MADRID -- Upon the dismay of the Vatican, the incoming prime minister of Spain, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, said that he would push for legalizing gay unions in the majority Catholic nation, Thursday, March 18, 2004.
"We are going to present a bill to set gay unions on the same footing as marriage," he said in an interview on Spain's Telecinco television channel.
"From a semantic point of view marriage may be a concept that does not cover this type of union, but it will have the same legal effects," said Zapatero, who swept to a surprise victory in general elections, mainly because of the Spanish people’s dissatisfaction with the outgoing administration.
Meanwhile, on March 14, representatives of the Vatican formally objected to a United Nations Secretariat decision to extend “family benefits” to some staffers in same-sex unions.
A representative from the Holy See -- the Vatican's U.N. mission, said the decision to include same-sex couples within the definition of family was contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related conventions, since the new policy would not respect the cultural norms in individual nations.
"I find it difficult to reconcile that statement with the proposed extension of valid family-member status to same-sex partners," said Joseph Klee, an adviser to the Holy See. "That would contradict the basic understanding of a marriage as a union between a man and woman."
Currently, same-sex “marriage” benefits are given only in the Netherlands and Belgium. A dozen other nations, mostly in northern Europe, recognize homosexual unions to varying degrees. Countries elsewhere, especially those in Africa, reject homosexuality, often punishing practitioners with time in jail.