- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 16, 2005

MADRID (AP) — The archbishop of Madrid and other senior Roman Catholics plan to attend a rally protesting a bill to establish same-sex “marriage,” church officials said yesterday.

It will be the their first display of anti-government activism in more than 20 years.

Catholic policy in Spain is for the church not to call protest rallies against the government and generally not to take part in such demonstrations, said Manuel Bru, a spokesman for Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco, who is archbishop of Madrid.

But Cardinal Rouco and at least 15 bishops plan to attend tomorrow’s rally in Madrid by a lay Catholic group called the Spanish Forum for the Family, Mr. Bru said.

Mr. Bru insisted the church leaders are not opposing the socialist government as much as its intention to establish same-sex “marriage” and give homosexual couples the same rights as heterosexual ones, including the right to adopt children.

“Like any other citizen, the bishops are exercising their right to express publicly their disagreement with a legislative measure,” Mr. Bru said.

The case is not unprecedented, he said. In 1983, bishops took part in a street rally when a previous socialist government legalized abortion, albeit in a limited number of cases.

Mr. Bru said he did not know whether the church’s senior leader in Spain, the president of the Spanish Bishops Conference, Bishop Ricardo Blazquez, would attend. The conference has endorsed the demonstration, however.

The bishops’ decision drew criticism from Beatriz Gimeno, president of the Spanish Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals.

“It’s an image taken straight out of 30 years ago. It represents very few citizens and is a return to a national Catholicism of Spain’s extreme right,” Miss Gimeno said.

The federation plans to read a statement in defense of homosexual rights before tomorrow evening’s demonstration, although Miss Gimeno said it was not intended to be seen as “a counter-rally.”

The same-sex “marriage” bill is expected to become law in a matter of weeks. It has been passed by the lower chamber of parliament and will be up for a vote next week in the Senate.

The conservative opposition Popular Party also has endorsed tomorrow’s demonstration.


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