Expatica news

Row over rights of unmarried couples

20 January 2004

NAVARRA – A row blew up Tuesday over unmarried couples’ rights after a gay Brazilian man was denied a residence card and visa, it was reported Tuesday.

In an extraordinary move, the local council where the man lives in Baranain, in north-west Spain, has complained the regional council has broken the law by refusing to grant the man his documents.

The case raises the issue the rights of gay and unmarried heterosexual couples in Spain.

In the run-up to the general election, the ruling conservative Popular Party has aligned itself with the Church in opposing moves to give these groups the same rights as married couples.

But the opposition socialist PSOE party has said if elected it would change the law to give unmarried and gay couples similar rights to those who have married.

The 26-year-old Brazilian is to appeal against the decision of the regional Navarra council to deny him a residence card.

He has been living with his partner for over a year in Baranain.

In December, the town council of Baranain agreed that the Brazilian could extend his visa and residence card because they recognised that living with another person gave him matrimonial rights in law.

The Brazilian was given provisional rights to work and remain in Spain while his case was considered.

But after the Navarra council reversed this ruling, the local council claimed it was breaking the law by discriminating against the man because of his sexuality.

It said if the Brazilian was a woman, he would have had the right to stay and be granted a residence permit under Spanish law.

Spain’s Roman Catholic Church recently provoked a row by accusing gays of threatening not just the nation’s morality but its finances.

In a homily delivered in Madrid’s Almudena cathedral, the head of the country’s powerful bishops’ conference, Cardinal Rouco Varela, has claimed gay marriages would help bring the country’s social security system to its knees.

The problem, Monseñor Rouco suggested, was that gays were incapable of doing the right thing by making babies, whose future social security contributions might help to cover pensions paid to their bereaved partners.

Spaniards, especially gays and the one in nine Spanish couples who have not tied the knot at their local church or town hall, could have ignored the opinions of a cardinal already famed for his highly conservative views.

But the cardinal was supported by the People’s Party government of the prime minister, José María Aznar.

The finance minister, Cristóbal Montoro, expressed his agreement with the cardinal, warning that allowing gay marriages and giving wedded and unwedded couples equal rights would simply create extra costs.

“It endangers the current model of economic growth,” he said. “This is not a matter of balancing social rights but a way of destroying jobs.”

Middle class taxpayers, he warned, would end up shouldering the costs generated by gay couples and their unmarried heterosexual equivalents.

The number of unmarried couples in Spain has increased 10-fold over the past 20 years as a once conservative country has played catch-up with the habits of the rest of Europe.

“It is time there was equality of rights,” Luis Zarraluqui, head of the Spanish Family Lawyers’ Association, told ABC newspaper.

Current Spanish family law has meant, for example, that the unmarried partners of several soldiers killed when an aircraft bringing them home from Afghanistan crashed were refused the compensation handed out to the widows of their married colleagues.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news