While Rhode Islanders scratch their heads when local lesbians or gay men slip over the line into Massachusets, two-by-two, to marry (since the commonwealth allows that) Alberto Linero, 27 and Alberto Sanchez, 24, will soon celebrate their 4 year-anniversary. Sanchez and Linero, were both privates in Spain’s air force, when they wed on June 28, 2006 in the elegant chandeliered hall of Seville’s city hall by Mayor Alfredo Sanchez Monteseirin
Monteseirin not only officiated, but he underlined the importance of this gay marriage by reaffirming the local government’s obligation to the couple. "This is not just your wedding. You symbolize millions of people who are not here and suffer from homophobia," said Sanchez Monteseirin. "The city will protect your rights." Imagine someone saying this in Salt Lake City of on Block Island?
How refreshing that the country where the word “macho” was born, has sailed forward so effortlessly into the twenty-first century, despite Spain’s strong Roman Catholic roots and centuries of fascist or monarchical machismo. Apparently the Spanish, unlike many residents of the US, are able to put their history in perspective; love it, but also override it when it seems misguided.
Spain, joined The Netherlands, Canada and Belgium in recognizing gays’ rights to legally binding marriages, and also has no laws restricting gays in the military. It was able to abolish the draft in 1999 and now has an all-professional Spanish military of 120,000 troops-- 13 percent of them women.
Though both Linero and Sanchez refused to answer questions about possible harassment they may face in the service, we can assume that even Spain has its share of bigoted idiots. We further imagine that the military ethic, wherever it exists, cannot totally free itself from its traditional worship of machismo. Historically this meant men were men, women were horizontal, and marriage was for one of each (with men not required to take their vows seriously.) Fags and dykes, of course, were always just that, and never, ever, in uniform. Anyone who dared test the boundaries of these stereotypes deserved what he or she got: brutal hazing, near-death beatings, or out-and-out killing.
In the face of the eternal reality that homosexuality exists-- in the military, in Congress, in the clergy, among firefighters, police officers and others-- the best the United States could come up with was, first, a total ban on gays in the military, followed by an even dumber plan called “Don’t Ask: Don’t Tell.”
This current policy, which defies explanation, implies that if U.S. soldiers, sailors and flyboys sit around and ignore the big, gay, elephant in the room long enough, everything will be fine.
Meanwhile, from Parris Island to Camp Pendleton and in every bunk around the globe where U.S. military men and women try to rest, some dream of a day when they too, like two privates in Seville, will be able to say, “We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re married.”
It’s supposed to be the land of the free, gay or straight. When will they ever learn?