Gay soldiers marry, and make history, in Spain

Walter Armstrong

Two privates in the Spanish air force became very public posterboys for gay marriage last week following a civil ceremony in Seville. Of some 4,500 same-sex couples to tie the knot since Spain legalized gay unions in July 2005, the wedding of Alberto Linero, 27, and Alberto Sanchez, 24, made global headlines because it was the first to take place in the military.

Photos of the grooms exchanging vows, gold rings and a long kiss in their matching blue dress uniforms complete with red and gold epaulets proved irresistible to the media worldwide. And the fact that they share not only a first name but tall, dark and handsome looks was the icing on the wedding cake.

The nuptials were held in Seville's town hall, led by a beaming socialist mayor and greeted, according to one reporter, with "a firecracker chorus of flamenco clapping, guitars and a crowd of 100 hearty-voiced well-wishers." Addressing the press, Linero crisply said, "We hope the wedding is one small step toward complete equality for gays." Sanchez hugged his little brother and wept.

There may be a little more weeping for these pioneering lovebirds back at the base. While gay soldiers can serve openly in Spain's military, gay marriage remains a political battleground in this largely Catholic nation.

"We know we are in the armed forces and this is touchy because we are not gardeners but rather soldiers. There are superior officers who will make life difficult for us, and they already are doing so," one of the Albertos said in an anonymous radio interview when news of their plans broke in June. The minister of defense was quick to clarify that the wedding is "a personal matter" and the men "would be allowed to continue their careers."

Time will tell. For now, let's toast the heroic Albertos as off they go into the wild blue yonder.