An estimated 100,000 people took part in Madrid’s annual gay and lesbian pride march on Saturday to celebrate the Spanish government’s legalisation of same-sex marriage last week.

The marriage laws passed Spain’s lower house of parliament on Thursday by a vote of 187 to 147, despite rejection by the Senate and fierce opposition from the country’s Catholic Church.

The legislation was signed by King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and came into effect on Sunday 3 July.

Same-sex couples will now be treated equally with heterosexual couples across all areas of law, including adoption and property law.

Today Spanish society is giving an answer to a group of people who for years have been humiliated, whose rights have been ignored, whose dignity has been offended, Zapatero was quoted as saying.

After us will come many other countries, driven, ladies and gentlemen, by two unstoppable forces: freedom and equality.

Gay activists cheered and blew kisses to legislators after the bill passed, according to Associated Press.

Opinion polls suggest a majority of Spaniards support same-sex unions, with one survey indicating 62 percent of people supported the government’s decision, Associated Press reported.

Spain is the third country to allow gay marriage nationwide, alongside the Netherlands and Belgium.

Canada’s federal government is also on track to approve gay marriage after its lower house approved a same-sex marriage bill last week. The legislation is being debated in the Senate where it is expected to pass shortly.

Australian LGBT lobby groups praised the international developments.

This week will go down in human rights history. Canada and Spain have shown the rest of the world that it can and will be done, Australian Marriage Equality national convenor Luke Gahan said.

David Scamell, co-convenor of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, said the news highlights the Australian federal government’s refusal to recognise same-sex relationships.

The recent reforms in Canada and Spain put Australia and our government to shame. Whilst these two countries have legislated to ensure same-sex relationships receive all the rights and responsibilities given to other couples, our government still refuses to recognise our relationships under federal law, Scamell said.

When same-sex couples try to immigrate, file tax returns or apply for health insurance, they face unjust discrimination simply because of the government’s homophobic stance. It’s time the government takes a leaf from the book of the Spanish and Canadian governments.

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