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Spain approves bill legalizing same-sex marriages
Updated: 2005-01-01 12:45

Spain's socialist government approved a bill to legalize same-sex marriages, putting this predominantly Roman Catholic country on course to become only the third European country to recognize gay matrimony.

Under the bill, homosexuals would be allowed to adopt children and same-sex couples will be able to inherit from one another as well as receive retirement benefits from their working spouses just as heterosexual married couples do.

The bill was approved at a cabinet meeting and is expected to be presented to Parliament in February for debate.

"The right to marry is a right for everyone, without distinction. It cannot be understood as a privilege,'' Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega told reporters after the meeting. "The recognition of homosexuals' rights eradicates an unjustified discrimination.''

The influential Catholic Church adamantly opposes the measure.

If the bill passes, Spain would join Belgium and the Netherlands in legalizing gay marriages.

Sweden and Denmark have "civil union'' laws for same-sex couples but fall short of legalizing gay marriage. However, the union can be blessed in both countries by the Lutheran Church.

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