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Spanish town rushes to wed gays before election

(AFP) / 19 October 2011

MADRID — A Spanish town is offering gay couples fast-track marriages before a likely November election win by the conservative Popular Party, which opposes same-sex marriage.

The mayor of the small southwestern town of Jun, Jose Antonio Rodriguez, said he offered the service across Spain after hearing from gay couples fearing a change in the law after the November 20 vote.

“People are very afraid, they are starting to realise that there could be a real change and they will lose a hard-fought right,” the Socialist mayor told AFP.

“I felt it was important to reassure people and find a way so that people who want to get married could do so,” he said.

Rodriguez said the town had received 52 requests from same-sex couples wanting to be married in the past week after he announced on Twitter he would offer speedy gay marriages before the general election.

The town of just over 4,000 residents carried out just 11 same-sex marriages during all of 2010.

The wedding applications are handled entirely online in about five days, complete with marriage certificate delivered by e-mail.

The mayor said he had made the town’s park available for wedding ceremonies but the vast majority of couples opt for the electronic marriage and would not need to set foot in Jun.

Under Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Spain has been on the vanguard of Europe in terms of gay rights.

In 2005 — a year after Zapatero was first elected — Spain passed a law to allow same-sex marriages, making it only the third member of the European Union after Belgium and the Netherlands to do so.

The law, part of the ruling Socialists’ aggressive agenda for social reform, also lets gay couples adopt children and inherit each other’s property.

Since then more than 20,000 gay couples have tied the knot.

The conservative Popular Party, which is riding high in the polls, has appealed the gay marriage law to Spain’s Constitutional Court.

Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy has pledged to reform the same-sex marriage law if elected but as the general election has neared he has stressed that any legislative action will come only after the court issues its ruling.

Polls show two-thirds of Spaniards back same-sex marriage, one of the highest levels of support in Europe.

 
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