Thursday, April 28, 2005

MADRID — A Spanish mayor has announced that he will refuse to apply a new law allowing same-sex couples to “marry,” a stand likely to please the Roman Catholic Church but give the Socialist government a headache.

The Spanish parliament last week gave initial approval to the new law — to the outrage of church authorities who have labeled homosexual “marriage” harmful to society and have urged mayors not to perform same-sex “weddings.”

“I intend not to exercise this right [to marry same-sex couples] and not to delegate it to other municipal officials,” Valladolid Mayor Francisco Javier Leon de la Riva was quoted as saying in local newspapers Tuesday.

“If the law forces me [to marry homosexual couples], I shall object on the grounds of conscience,” said Mr. Leon de la Riva, of the center-right Popular Party, which is considered close to the Catholic Church.

Other mayors appeared poised to follow Mr. Leon de la Riva’s lead, and his counterpart in Avila, Miguel Angel Garcia Nieto, which is also in central Spain, praised him for his “manly stand.”

Lluis Fernando Caldentey, mayor of Pontons in the Catalonia region, said that same-sex “marriage” was immoral and that homosexuals were “defective.” The Popular Party said it had suspended him from the party for his comments.

Madrid Municipal Council member Ana Botella, wife of former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, last week joined the civic leaders who refuse to conduct same-sex “marriage,” Agence France-Presse reported.

But many conservative mayors of big cities, among them Alberto Ruiz Gallardon of Madrid and Rita Barbera of Valencia, said they would respect the law.

The Socialist government said it expected everyone, especially public officials, to comply with the law that allows same-sex couples to “wed” in civil ceremonies, not in church.

The law “does not affect freedom of conscience, nor does it have anything to do with religion or with a religious sacrament,” said Justice Minister Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar.

The Socialist government repeatedly has angered the church in its first year in power, not just with its homosexual “marriage” plans but also by easing abortion restrictions, making it easier to divorce and permitting stem-cell research.

Opinion polls show that most Spaniards support allowing same-sex couples to “marry,” but the measure has come under sustained fire from the church and from the conservative Popular Party.

Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family, branded the law “inhuman” and challenged state officials to refuse to apply it.

Pope John Paul II last year rebuked Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero over the plan to legalize homosexual “marriage.”

Yesterday, homosexual rights groups reacted with fury after a Spanish cardinal compared obedience to laws on same-sex “marriage” to the process that led to the creation of Nazi death camps.

“If you give obedience to the law priority over obedience to your conscience, that leads to Auschwitz,” Cardinal Ricard Maria Carles, former archbishop of Barcelona, told a Spanish television station.

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