Spain passes Transgender Equality Law; protests engulf country after homophobic murder
Members of the Unidas Podemos coalition march in Madrid's Pride parade, celebrating the passage of the new Transgender Equality Law, behind a banner reading: 'They are rights, not wishes. It's the law!' | via Unidas Podemos

“They are rights, not wishes. It’s the law!” read the pink, blue, and white banner of the Communist Party of Spain as its members marched with the wider Unidas Podemos (United We Can) coalition for Madrid’s Pride Parade this past Saturday.

Early last week, Spain’s Minister of Equality Irene Montero, elected on the Unidas Podemos list and a prominent member of the Union of Young Communists of Spain, announced the passage of the “Trans Law,” which expands the rights of LGBTQ citizens in terms of their gender identification from the age of 16, allowing them to legally change their name and gender.

The law came into effect at the end of Pride Month and was implemented by the ruling Socialist Worker’s Party of Spain (PSOE), a center-left social democratic party, in coalition with Unidas Podemos. The new rights guarantee is being celebrated by the LGBTQ movement in Spain and internationally, but it has been somewhat overshadowed by the murder of Samuel Luiz outside a gay nightclub in A Coruña, Galicia.

24-year-old Samuel Luiz was murdered in a homophobic attack in Galicia.

Luiz, a 24-year-old nurse who worked in a senior citizens home, was beaten to death by a group of people. Spanish police described the incident as a “human pack kicking a youngster for than 150 meters down a street.” Authorities believe between six and ten attackers were involved. A friend of Luiz reportedly told police that the assailants called Luiz “a f*cking faggot” while punching and kicking him.

Three people—two men and a woman—have been taken into custody so far, but the investigation continues, and police have not ruled out further arrests. Massive ongoing protests in response to the killing have made it appear that Pride Month has been extended a few weeks due to the sea of rainbow and transgender rights flags filling the streets of Madrid, Barcelona, Málaga, Bilbao, and other Spanish cities.

That the two events—an advance in transgender rights and an apparent homophobic murder—occurred in the same week is emblematic of the complex history of LGBTQ rights in Spain.

The well-known homosexual Communist poet and playwright Federico García Lorca was killed by Gen. Francisco Franco’s fascist forces for his political affiliation and sexuality during the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Decades after his murder, he became an icon for dissidents and the LGBTQ community.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in Spain in 1979 with the restoration of bourgeois democracy after the death of Franco. Remnants of the dictator’s homophobia and transphobia still litter Spanish politics today, felt not only on the right but also in some sectors of the so-called radical left.

For example, in early 2020, the Communist-led United Left expelled the Feminist Party of Spain (PFE) from the coalition due to its anti-transgender stances on the question of women’s liberation.

Then, following the implementation of the “trans law” last week, the Communist Party of the Workers of Spain (PCTE) has attacked what it calls an “opportunistic” reform stating, “Confusing sex with gender, to end up dictating the self-determination of sex, denies the material basis of the oppression suffered by working women.” The PCTE claims that if gender oppression is supposedly “no longer due to the destructive consequences of the system, but is simply an individual choice, capitalism is exonerated from any responsibility.”

Despite the regressive stances of the sectarian left, however, the overwhelming majority of working-class organizations are celebrating the new law as a sign of historic social progress. They hail the Transgender Equality Law as the action of a government which they democratically elected to represent them shortly before one of the most devastating pandemics in world history.

The party which sits at the head of the governing alliance, PSOE, can be characterized by its mostly progressive domestic policy and aggressive imperialist foreign policy, for instance, its defense of NATO. Historically, the PSOE fought hardest for the legalization of same-sex marriage and the right for LGBTQ couples to adopt under the leadership of openly gay congressman Pedro Zerolo, who passed away from cancer in 2015.

A Communist Party of Spain poster: ‘Always with the LGBTI struggle. Always with pride.’ | via PCE

PSOE’s supporter in government, Unidas Podemos, is an alliance of a more radical leftist orientation. It includes Izquierda Unida, or United Left, which is led by the Communist Party of Spain (PCE).

Equality Minister Irene Montero’s partner, Pablo Iglesias, was the leader of the UP alliance until losing his bid for governor of Madrid earlier this summer after facing numerous death threats from supporters of the neo-fascist, anti-immigrant, and homophobic/transphobic VOX party.

PSOE and UP struck a deal to enter into an alliance in late 2019, shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic. Beyond the Trans Law, the left-wing coalition government has also been praised for other progressive moves, including raising the minimum wage by 5.5%.

Minister of Equality Irene Montero and Minister of Consumer Affairs Alberto Garzón announce passage of the Trans Law. | via PCE

Spain has also managed to ditch its status as of one of the most plagued epicenters of the pandemic in Europe, and unemployment rates have dropped at historic rates under the guidance of Vice President Yolanda Díaz, a member of the Communist Party and now leader of the UP alliance since Iglesias withdrew from politics in early May, and Alberto Garzón, leader of the Communist-led United Left coalition and current Minister of Consumer Affairs.

Hopes have been raised that the government may even make moves toward ending the Spanish monarchy thanks to the royal family’s ongoing corruption.

Despite making yet another historical advance toward full equality for LGBTQ workers in Spain, the PSOE-UP coalition government will continue to fight an uphill battle against violent attacks on members of the LGBTQ community motivated by the hate speech of far-right VOX politicians. Congresswoman Gádor Joya Verde of VOX, for instance, recently stated that if her “…son was gay, (she) would prefer not to have grandchildren.” Another VOX spokesperson, Juan Ernesto Pflüger, asked, “Why do homosexuals celebrate Valentine’s Day if what they have is not love, but rather abnormal behavior?”

This is one point that the PSOE and the UP agree on despite their many disagreements regarding the future of the Kingdom of Spain and a restoration of a (Third) Republic: Homophobia and transphobia are not welcome in a progressive and socialist Spain.


Maicol David Lynch
Maicol David Lynch

Maicol David Lynch is a member of the National Committee of the Communist Party USA and an activist and organizer in Working America and Indivisible, the national grassroots movement. He writes from New York City and is most passionate about the struggles against imperialism in Latin America and the fight against xenophobia in immigrant communities in the USA.