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LGBTQ rights are at the forefront of Spain's election

Opinion polls predict Alberto Nunez Feijoo’s conservative People’s Party will win the election after four years of coalition government.
Gay pride march in Madrid 2023
A Pride march in Madrid on July 1.Juan Carlos Rojas / picture alliance via Getty Images
/ Source: Reuters

MADRID, July 17 — The rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people have taken center stage ahead of Spain’s July 23 national election.

Opinion polls predict Alberto Nunez Feijoo’s conservative People’s Party (PP) will win the election after four years of coalition government by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialists and the leftist Unidas Podemos.

But Feijoo would likely need the support of the far-right Vox party to form a government. Vox has strongly opposed LGBTQ rights.

Here is what you need to know.

Why are LGBTQ+ advocates worried?

Local elections in May paved the way for PP-Vox coalitions in several Spanish municipalities.

Vox made headlines in May by hanging a sign from a Madrid building showing a hand dropping cards with symbols representing feminism, communism, the LGBTQ community and Catalan independence into a rubbish bin.

A new Vox-led authority in the small eastern town of Naquera last month said it would no longer display the rainbow-colored flag on public buildings.

In Valdemorillo, a small town near Madrid, the new PP-Vox council cancelled a performance of a theatre adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s novel “Orlando,” in which the protagonist changes gender.

What do right-wing parties advocate?

Both Vox and the PP have promised to take action against some pro-LGBTQ measures passed by the left-wing government.

They have both pledged to change a self-determination law that came into force in March, allowing trans people over 16 to change their legal gender simply by informing the official registry, rather than undergoing two years of hormone treatment.

The law also allows children over 14 to change their legal gender with parental approval.

The PP and Vox, as well as some women’s rights groups, argue the legislation puts women in single-sex spaces at risk and have accused the left of forcing children to medically transition.

“Changing your sex is easier than getting a driver’s license,” Feijoo said. Vox party leader Santiago Abascal said “the ‘trans law’ discriminates against women.”

But the parties have not clarified which parts of the law they would revoke. The legislation also banned so-called conversion therapy, which aims to change someone’s sexual orientation and gender identity, and unnecessary surgery on intersex babies, who are born neither exclusively male nor female.

Both the PP and Vox declined to answer requests for comment.

Vox has also proposed allowing parents to take their children out of sex education classes and lessons covering sexual and gender diversity.

What do LGBTQ activists say?

Spain is fourth in the ranking of European countries’ LGBTQ rights by advocacy group ILGA-Europe, but LGBTQ activists said a PP-Vox government would roll back their rights.

Several international surveys rank Spain amongst the most LGBTQ-friendly societies in the world, although hate crimes against the community rose by 68% between 2019 and 2021, Interior Ministry data showed.

A right-wing government could also target LGBTQ rights by failing to implement existing laws, said Uge Sangil, head of LGBTQ umbrella group, FELGTB.

“We could go back 40 years,” Sangil said.

For some, a PP-Vox coalition could also delay long-awaited measures such as including a nonbinary option on identity documents.

“It would not only mean bring a setback in rights — we would also have practically no chances of moving forward,” said Darko Decimavilla, a nonbinary activist.

Reporting by Openly, the LGBTQ news website from the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters.