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Meeting between the Acting President of the Government and representatives of LGTBI groups on the occasion of LGTBI Pride Week

Moncloa Palace, Madrid, Wednesday 3 July 2019

PEDRO SÁNCHEZ, Acting President of the Government

Good morning, my friends, and welcome to your home.

At the age of fifteen years, Antoni Ruiz began to feel attracted to boys. At the age of seventeen, he told his mother in confidence that he was homosexual. His mother didn't understand and asked for help from a friend who was a nun, and who was connected with the regional Criminal Investigation Brigade. And that very day, at six in the morning, they arrested Antoni. They took him to the prison cells where, on the orders of the agent who was interrogating him, he was raped by a common criminal.

They tried, without success, to turn him into an informant on other homosexuals. They locked him up in Valencia Prison and initiated proceedings on the grounds of social danger against him. Shortly afterwards, they moved him to Carabanchel Prison, to the prison in Badajoz, so very far from his home, far from his loved ones.

For Antoni, those days were hell. Only three months after being arrested, on his eighteenth birthday, he was set free.

And all this that I am talking about didn't happen in 1950, or in 1960. It happened in 1976. Franco the dictator had already died, but the law on "idlers and criminals" continued in force.

In 1976, most of those who are here today, nearly all, had already been born. And we are not therefore talking about persecutions remote in time in alien and very distant societies. In historical terms, we are talking about little more than yesterday.

We're talking about people who are still alive and indeed still young.

The Social Danger and Rehabilitation Act had until that year, 1976, led to the imprisonment of a total of 698 men. None of them benefited from the Transition Amnesty Act, because technically the law had only sent them to prison for rehabilitation. So there was no sentence.

Jordi, also Boti, noted in their speeches earlier this curious obsession that intolerant people have for rehabilitating, for converting. And the attempts are always the same over time: detention, therapy, treatment to put right the person who has supposedly gone astray.

Today I would like to share with you my firm conviction that we are going to continue to make progress. We are going to do so for three reasons - and I believe that Boti and Jordi have also made it clear in their speeches.

The first reason is because the LGTBI organisations of all kinds are extremely strong, solid and very active, with a capacity for protest, but also for mobilising people. Along with a memory for the very recent past.

Second, because society as a whole, as Boti noted very rightly earlier, no longer understands discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. We are a LGTBI-friendly country, one of the great destinations of international gay tourism. Society has interiorised this normality and it will never again put itself on the side of those who attack you.

And third, because the Government will hold firm. Because we are not going to allow aggression, threats, or attempts at intimidation to be given free rein. Never again. Not one backward step.

These days we have seen in the social networks a peaceful youngster being attacked in a hamburger bar by a self-important homophobe. And we've also seen how the far right asked in the Valencian Parliament for the personal data of LGTBI activists who were working with minors, thus turning to malice as a way of doing politics.

These attitudes, my friends, will not disappear in a day, but they will never again condition our lives, our public conversations, our behaviour. They will never frighten us again.

The Pride March, which is being held this weekend in Madrid, has always been a protest demonstration, although of course it involves a party. A party. This year the chosen slogan is "We're elderly. "No closets for the elderly. History, struggle and memory!" This is the slogan for Pride in 2019.

Those who are elderly today are those who began this struggle, as commented earlier by Jordi and Boti. And they are those who remember everything. Those who recall the insults, the affronts, the fear, the public humiliation and the pain caused to so many people whose only crime was to be different.

Or even worse: to love in a different way. Because, unfortunately, this struggle was only a struggle of different loves, as Boti was very right to mention earlier. And in a world where there are still intolerable levels of poverty, inequality, wars, incurable diseases and people who have been neglected, to ban love because it is different is a colossal foolishness.

Some of the illustrious people whose value has been highlighted in your speeches, such as Armand de Fluvià, Empar Pineda and Jordi Petit, opened up the way forward when the times were most difficult. There are others that picked up the baton from them, such as Boti, Jordi, and also obviously Pedro Zerolo, whom we recall fondly, dear Jesús, and whom we will always miss.

But without a doubt, together with all of them there are innumerable anonymous people, whose names are not in the pages of history. But they were also there, on the streets, in demonstrations when demonstrating and making yourself visible was still dangerous, when a handful of people ran the risk of being insulted or even arrested. At work, also providing an example of this visibility; in magazines or books, telling people about what was a hidden reality; in hospitals or homes, caring for those sick with AIDS who were not receiving care or respect.

They are an incalculable number of people, who ended up making this country what Spain is today: a much more dignified country, much more tolerant and much happier, thanks also to the LGTBI movement. And a country in which its citizens can live simply according to their identity.

This year, as you know, you are celebrating, we are celebrating, the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, which marked the start of the fight for the civil rights of gays, lesbians and transsexuals. But here in Spain we also had our own Stonewalls in Maspalomas, in Torremolinos and also in Barcelona. They were places that concentrated the struggle, the visibility and the need for a safe place for a generation of Spanish people who knew that things had to change, that we could not and would not resign ourselves.

The elderly, those who fought and those who didn't, have the right to live without closets. The elders, like adolescents, are among the most vulnerable groups in the societies in which we live, and so they need more care, more policies, in the broadest sense of the term. They are exposed, or more exposed, to solitude, neglect, uncertainty. As a result, they are more exposed to weakness. It is on their shoulders that we have constructed the tolerant society in which we now live in Spain. We have the obligation to repay their sacrifice with our generosity.

The Government has pledged, and now repeated its pledge, to contribute to make equality real, as the Minister for the Interior said rightly earlier, with the statement we approved in the Council of Ministers.

Although it appears a paradox, we fight for equality because we want to have the right to be different. Because we are different. Because what we don't like is the term "normality".

Last year, we adopted a package of measures to fight against discrimination for reasons of sexual orientation or gender identity. We set up, as the minister recalled here, the Directorate-General for Equality of Treatment and Diversity. We approved a declaration on 28 June as National LGTBI Pride Day. We recovered access to assisted reproductive treatment for lesbian and single women. We implemented the social agreement against discrimination on the grounds of HIV or the elimination of this disease as a cause of exclusion for access to public-sector employment by men and women in our country.

And we are going to continue, as Boti was right to indicate and recall earlier. There are some legal procedures pending that were not approved due to the early election. But I am going to implement public policies that deal in particular with trans people or young LGTBI, who as I said earlier, are in a situation of special vulnerability.

And we will also be firm, as proposed by this Pride, in restoring the memory of those who were arrested, those who were tortured, those who lost their freedom, their property, those who could not love whom they loved.

Antoni Ruiz, whom I talked about at the start of my speech, recalls those terrible years he passed in prison, He says, and I quote: "They destroyed our lives and consigned us to the lowest level of society. Some even committed suicide in prison because they couldn't bear that very harsh situation. As well as beatings, we suffered inhuman treatment from the prison officers."

This will never happen again. Spain has decided again and again to be an open, diverse, tolerant country. Spain has decided that fanatical and intransigent people should not have the voice to question the rights won with so much effort by the generations and generations to whom we wish to pay tribute today.

Or rather, Spain has decided never more to question one of the main rights we have as human beings: the right to be happy.

Thank you and congratulations.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Non official translation