Mary Ann Sorrentino's 2 Cents Worth

Opinions, Observations and Musings

Mary Ann Sorrentino

Mary Ann Sorrentino
RI or FL depending on season, USA
June 19
Mary Ann is a columnist for the Keene (NH) Sentinel, the Providence Phoenix and other newspapers and has appeared on She was an Associated Press Award-winning radio talk host for 13 years and the Executive Director of Planned Parenthood of RI 1977-1987. Her most recent book, ABORTION - The A Word (Gadd Books) is available on line and in major bookstores.


JUNE 6, 2010 7:25PM

The Gay in Spain Where Pain is on The Wane

Rate: 13 Flag

     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?

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I studied anthropology/sociology in undergrad, and spent a semester in Madrid in 92. It was still working on catching up to the 20th century, and maybe they have zoomed ahead in some ways. I remember learning that under Franco, divorce was only granted if a man cheated on his wife -IN HER BED. They were afraid to lift the divorce ban because of all the women who would be abandoned by their husbands. Not so, it turns out it was the women who overwhelmingly instigated divorce. The modern young spaniards have had to adjust to parents raised in colonial times and have done a pretty good job of it, I'd say.
We were just in Madrid last falll and I am always amazed at the Spanish people who--despite a history of oppression and current economic woes worse than ours-- manage to be so dedicated to freedom, beauty, and openness. Viva Espania!
I wonder when certain groups in the USA(religious zealots) can get over their picking and choosing of a few Bible verses to defend their hatred of fellow human beings. I have a hope that someday a person's sexuality stops defining how accepted they are! R
“We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re married.”

Damn those are beautiful words! Thank you!
i simply don't understand why people care when people who love each other and are in a monogamous relationship want to marry. it doesn't hurt them, it celebrates a union. rrr
oh, and i loved your title, 'enry 'iggins
Yes, great title Mary Ann. It is quite unbelievable that, in this day and age, people are still not allowed to make their own choices in relation to marriage. Gay marriage is also illegal here in Australia.
Mary Ann, you're a pro. It's such a silly, silly argument. For the life of me I can't figure why everyone feels so threatened. How does someone's marriage impact yours or mines? As Mike Tyson loved to say, it's ludicrous. Excellent post.
Fabulous title.
It takes much effort on my part to try and comprehend why people care about other people's legal situations or private lives. Me, I'd want to celebrate love. I suppose*sigh* those who oppose gay marriage oppose change and those who cite religious beliefs are really afraid of what they don't (and don't need to) understand.
I'm afraid that in many American circles, it is the land of the free - so long as you believe what I believe. And to answer your question, no, many will never learn. I do think their time is just about up. I'm hopeful that the grip the religious fundamentalist currently have on our country is becoming weaker everyday. But I also chose the word 'hopeful' quite on purpose.
Glad this repost of a column I wrote previously is getting such a good reception from all of you...I'm also happy you like the title: I was worried a bit you might find it too frivolous for the topic.

Thanks for the reads and rates.
Mary Ann, gay marriage was forced on the Spanish population by a social-engineering court system/legistature -- just as it was in the US in Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, etc. Anywhere that gay marriage is actually voted on by the citizens of that nation, city, state, it is defeated. I find it very unlikely that the AVERAGE Spanish citizen approves of gay marriage, given that it is a very Catholic country.

I do not have any statistics, but I understand that part of the decision to legalize gay marriage in Spain and now Portugal was to take advantage of the foreign gay tourism business, and that actual Spanish citizens (it is too new in Portugal to have any meaningful stats) who have married one another, like your example above, are very rare -- that only a couple hundred of gay marriages of Spanish citizens have actually taken place (but a couple thousand of FOREIGN TOURISTS have married there).

This has pretty close to nothing to do with "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", though I think that was a stupid law and needs to be repealed. At the time it was passed, it was considered a compromise between allowing openly gay soldiers OR the old method of seeking out and expelling gays and lesbians. "Not asking" seemed to be kinder and more compassionate, but it has not worked out that way.

Gays and lesbians have every right to serve in the military (as they have, silently, for generations) and to work, vote, own property and live as they choose, including with any partner they wish. What they CANNOT DO -- no, not even in states that have technically "legalized" gay marriage -- is marry one another. Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. Two men or two women can have a relationship -- they may be pair bonded and very devoted, and live together in a way that superficially resembles marriage. But it isn't a marriage -- no culture, no religion, no society, no ethnic group in ALL OF HUMAN HISTORY recognizes such a relationship as a marriage. It is offensive to many people, of different beliefs and cultures, to pretend that it does, simply to assauge the desires of a tiny, tiny minority.

It's as if, as a society, we have lost the ability to simply tell people "no". No, you can't pretend you are married when you are two men or two women. No, you can't come up with some crazed Yearning for Zion ranch and marry ten girls who are underage. No, you can't marry your sister -- or your mother. Or your father. Or your dog or cat.

I am hopeful for the future, that gay marriage laws will be rescinded in places like Canada, Spain, The Netherlands and Portugal, because decent people will come forward in time and demand that marriage remain a definite relationship between a man and a woman, and not diluted down into what basically ends up as nothing -- a "super duper friendship" with benefits. That's not marriage, and it degrades the very definition of marriage.

As far as the US, given the well-funded pro-gay marriage activist groups ($38 million in California ALONE for a failed attempt to force gay marriage on the citizens of that state), I now believe the only correct action is to work diligently towards a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as a relationship between a man and woman; yes, it should not be necessary -- it was NOT necessary for 200 years! because it so blitheringly obvious -- but I guess TODAY it needs to DEFINED before it is "liberalized" out of existence.

I feel there would be no problem whatsoever getting a 3/4 majority on this, given that 45 states still prohibit gay marriages, and a 46th (IOWA) will almost certainly overturn its inappropriate court decision in the next two years.
Mary Ann - Wonderful post!

Laurel -
When the courts overturned the laws that made inter-racial marriages illegal the majority of people in this country would have voted to keep those laws. Would they have been right? Should the majority have ruled? This country was organized as a Constitutional Republic to protect the minority FROM the majority. It was not setup as majority rule.

You also say that 'decent people will come forward in time to demand" that marriage continue to be defined as between a man and a woman. So people who don't agree with that are not decent people? We are decent people, we love and live just like heterosexual people do and our relationships are the same as between people of opposite sexes.

If anything, the government should get out of the marriage business altogether. What business does the government have bestowing a religious sacrament onto people? The government should civilly unite people. If a couple wants to marry they should do that in a church or other religious organization.

Lastly, if you do not have the statistics you should either look them up or not repeat hear-say concerning the reasons gay marriage was approved in Spain.
I always knew I liked Spain . . .
Artist at heart.. thanks for a lucid post. Thanks to people like you know who.. we all realize that the US is not at the cutting edge of enlightenment. Time will tell.
Thanks artist at heart and robob for getting the comments back on the lucidity track!
People who make broad, sweeping generalizations about the entire history of humanity often end up looking foolish and ignorant. No society, no religion, no ethnic group has ever recognized same-sex marriage? John Boswell published an excellent, very thoroughly-researched book "Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe" that details actual Christian ceremonies bonding two men or two women together. It's amazing that at a time when the Church was so virulently anti-sexuality they still had the capacity to recognize and socially legitimize homosexual love. So not only did the society from which our own springs forth sanctify gay marriage, it was also the Church to which the zealots usually cling that performed the ceremony! Personally, I find that alternately sad and hilarious.
Thanks for the historical background, appreciated. (Hope the people who need to learn more about the facts are paying attention.)
Norway, Sweden and Portugal have also taken the plunge. And civil partnerships with exactly the same legal rights exist in Germany and the UK--and pretty much all of NATO Europe allow gays in the military.
YES! Christian, thanks for that update.