This week we hear reports from Spain that Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is going to be attending a close friend’s wedding. Not so unusual, you might think. The thing is, his close friend (also a colleague, a senior official within Rajoy’s Popular Party) is a man, and so too is his betrothed.
You might consider that in 2015, that’s not so unusual either – until you realise the peculiar subtext. Rajoy has for a long time been the head cheerleader (what an image) of Spanish political opposition to same-sex marriage. Back in 2011, Rajoy’s Popular Party lodged an (unsuccessful) appeal against Spain’s 2005 law allowing gay marriage in the Constitutional Court, which had been passed under the previous socialist government. Strange, then, that Rajoy should now be happily chomping on the tiered wedding cake of a gay colleague.
Has Rajoy changed his mind since 2005, when he said that the new law “perverts the basic institution of marriage”? I doubt it. The Spanish press have been rightly highlighting the apparent hypocrisy in essentially taking a stance of, “I don’t really believe gay people should have equal rights, but this one’s OK.” And as a gay person who believes in equal marriage, I have to say that I find the entire affair downright stupid.
It’s not just stupid because opposing equal rights is stupid; it’s stupid politically. If I were opposed to gay marriage, and I heard that a politician who I believed to be fighting my corner was himself witnessing at a gay wedding, he would lose both my vote and my trust. Equally, as a supporter of gay marriage myself, I find it hard to believe his attendance at this wedding would be viewed as anything other than a rather grotesque and cynical ploy, using his friend’s marriage as a political tool to try and broaden his appeal. After all, it’s pretty clear that gay rights are not going to magically reverse in Spain. If they did, it would be to the country’s severe detriment: a report this month by LGBT Capital found that gay and lesbian visitors contribute $6.8 billion to the Spanish economy, spending on average 30 per cent more than mainstream tourists.
By confusing the anti-gay marriage message he’d stuck so ardently to previously, Rajoy would be surely alienating pretty much everyone on either side of the argument. You can’t look like a strong politician if you then muddy the waters by making a public statement of solidarity and support for your gay friend’s wedding.
Since he hasn’t announced a Road to Damascus moment, we can only assume that Rajoy does still oppose equal marriage for gay people – as long as they’re not his good friends. So whether the man takes rather more moderate a view than his public political stance would imply, or whether he may indeed be simply utilising his friend’s wedding to try and reach a more socially moderate audience, the whole thing has backfired in the most spectacular fashion.
When discussing this story with others, I was particularly struck by something said by my Spanish friend: “Rajoy is acting like a badly-behaved child does during the few days preceding Christmas, desperately trying to be as good as possible to ensure a healthy crop of presents when the big day comes.” I for one don’t think he’s fooling anyone - and I suspect, come December, it’ll be a lump of coal rather than a Chocolate Orange at the end of his Christmas stocking.
LGBT rights across the globe
LGBT rights across the globe
Russia’s antipathy towards homosexuality has been well established following the efforts of human rights campaigners. However, while it is legal to be homosexual, LGBT couples are offered no protections from discrimination. They are also actively discriminated against by a 2013 law criminalising LGBT “propaganda” allowing the arrest of numerous Russian LGBT activists. (Picture: Riot police hold an LGBT activist during a Moscow rall.)
Men who are found having sex with other men face stoning, while lesbians can be imprisoned, under Sharia law. However, the state has not reportedly executed anyone for this ‘crime’ since 1987. (Picture: Chinguetti Mosque, Mauritania.)
3/7 Saudi Arabia
Homosexuality and transgender is illegal and punishable by the death penalty, imprisonment, corporal punishment, whipping and chemical castration. (Picture: The emblem of Saudi Arabia above the embassy in London.)
Bruno Vincent/Getty Images
The official position within the country is that there are no gays. LGBT inviduals, if discovered by the government, are likely to face intense pressure. Punishments range from flogging to the death penalty. (Picture: Yemen's southern port of Aden.)
Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is illegal and in some northern states punishable with death by stoning. This is not a policy enacted across the entire country, although there is a prevalent anti-LGBT agenda pushed by the government. In 2007 a Pew survey established that 97 per cent of the population felt that homosexuality should not be accepted. It is publishable by 14 years in prison. (Picture: The northern Nigerian town of Damasak.)
Homosexuality was established as a crime in 1888 and under new Somali Penal Code established in 1973 homosexual sex can be punishable by three years in prison. (Picture: Families use a boat to cross a flooded Shebelle River, in Jowhar.)
Although same-sex relationships have been decriminalised, much of the population still suffer from intense discrimination. Additionally, in some of the country over-run by the extremist organisation Isis, LGBT individuals can face death by stoning. (Picture: Purported Isis fighters in Iraq.)