Spain came late to the ranks of gay-welcoming countries but is now among the friendliest towards gay relationships and the LGBTQ community, with strong legal protection. But some areas are more welcoming than others, and there are pockets of discrimination.

Next Wednesday (17th May) is International Day against Homophobia. Its purpose is to raise awareness of violence, discrimination, and repression of LGBT communities worldwide. Many countries, including some surprising nations like Germany, are not as progressive as Spain when it comes to gay rights while some are seriously hostile. So what is like to be gay and in Spain?

A model nation for gay rights in Europe.

Spain is one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world. In 2016 a report by IGLA-Europe called the country “a model nation for gay rights in Europe,” echoing a Gallup poll from 2014 that found Spain to be the second most welcoming nation to gay people in the world with only the Netherlands beating it.

It wasn’t always like this. Under General Franco gays were targeted, homosexuality was illegal and many gay men were sent to prisons called galerías de invertidos (galleries of deviants). In 1978 homosexuality was legalised and it is estimated that there are around four million gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual people living here. Same sex marriage has only recently been made legal, much against the wishes of the Catholic Church, though most Spaniards, especially in large cities and towns, are in favour of equal rights for gay people. In a poll taken in 2013, 88% of Spanish people replied positively when asked “should society accept homosexuality.” The older generation in Spain tend to be less tolerant and attitudes also vary from region to region, but overall Spain is exceptionally welcoming.


Spain is among the most welcoming nations in the world for gay couples



Gay families

Marriage between same sex couples is legal and widely accepted throughout the country. It is relatively easy for a gay couple to adopt children in Spain and also to have a family through surrogacy. There are several international surrogacy agencies which you can find online. As with heterosexual couples, adoption authorities will be looking for those who possess good parenting skills and are loving, responsible, trustworthy and caring. In Spain, adoption is for life and irreversible. There is, however, a shortage of children available for adoption and international adoption is not always easy for gay couples. Adopted children have the same inheritance rights as children adopted by heterosexual couples.

88% of Spanish people replied positively when asked “should society accept homosexuality.

Regional variations

Two regions in Spain have a reputation as being the least friendly to gay people, both in northern Spain: Galicia and the Basque Region, whereas the southern regions are positively welcoming. The inland country areas tend to be less accepting while the major cities and towns have numerous gay bars and gay neighbourhoods. Barcelona offers a gay help line for residents and visitors – 900 601 601 – and a useful website,


Sitges promenade, one of the most gay-friendly resorts, with an annual Pride festival


Madrid also has an online guide for gays as does Valencia and Seville. In these cities and other towns popular with gay people it is acceptable to be seen holding hands, especially on the Pride weekends.

The major cities and towns have numerous gay bars and gay neighbourhoods.


Job discrimination because of sexual orientation has been illegal in Spain since 1995, but employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity is not illegal – although some regions have made both illegal, including Catalonia, Galicia and Extremadura.

Hate crime and speeches are banned, however. The various police forces in Spain are on the lookout for hate tweets and hate messages on other social media platforms, encouraging the public to report any type of hate crime against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.

The Spanish armed forces accept openly gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people. Gay and bisexual men can be blood donors.

Spain has been one of the most tolerant places worldwide for the LGBT community for over a decade and despite it being a Catholic country, its people are very liberal in their views.

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