Homosexuality 'a disease' claims Spanish professor

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The Independent Online

Spain's increasingly acrimonious debate on gay rights intensified yesterday, as a law allowing same-sex marriage faced a knife-edge vote in the Senate, following contentious testimony from an academic who claimed that homosexuality was "a disease".

Spain's increasingly acrimonious debate on gay rights intensified yesterday, as a law allowing same-sex marriage faced a knife-edge vote in the Senate, following contentious testimony from an academic who claimed that homosexuality was "a disease".

Senators from the conservative opposition Popular Party (PP), backed by three Catalan Nationalists, opposed the marriage bill. One more dissenting voice - in a vote expected last night - would defeat the bill in the upper house, or at least allow officials to opt out of conducting gay weddings on moral grounds. But that would not prevent the lower house from approving the law next week.

Yesterday's debate was overshadowed by earlier testimony from a specialist summoned by the PP who told senators that "homosexuality was a pathology ... that could be corrected by therapy". The opinions of Aquilino Polaino, a psychology professor, were disowned by PP leaders who feared alienating an estimated one million homosexuals who vote PP.

Professor Polaino told the Senate's Justice Committee that homosexuality was caused by "a hostile, distant, alcoholic or violent father ... or an overprotective, cold and demanding mother". Homosexuals, he said, "did not play games as children ... may have suffered sexual abuse within the family ... are more likely to be promiscuous, take drugs and suffer from schizophrenia".

Appalled, the PP high command turned upon Professor Polaino. The party's senate spokesman, Pio Garcia Escudero, apologised to anyone offended by Professor Polaino's remarks.Eduardo Zaplana, the PP's parliamentary spokesman, who joined a rally for family values led by bishops in Madrid, condemned his views as "from another age".

The two main psychiatric organisations in Spain said in a statement: "The international scientific community does not recognise any pathological character to homosexual behaviour."

The bishops' spokesman, Juan Antonio Martinez Camino, said society was "fearful of laws affecting something as sensitive as the future of the family ... and would be relieved if the bill never became law". But, he added, it was not for bishops to say whether being gay was an illness or not.

The Vatican, in an early test of Pope Benedict XVI's leadership, condemned the bill. The head of the Pontifical Council on the Family, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, said the bill was profoundly iniquitous.

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