Queen draws ire over gay marriage comment

MADRID Fri Oct 31, 2008 2:12pm EDT

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MADRID (Reuters) - The Queen of Spain drew criticism Friday after she was quoted as condemning gay marriage, gay pride marches and abortion in an upcoming biography.

"If these people want to live together, dress as grooms and get married, they might have the right to do so or not, depending on the laws of their countries. But they shouldn't call it marriage, because it isn't," Queen Sofia was quoted as saying.

"There are many possible names: social contract, contract of union," she said in extracts from "La Reina Muy de Cerca" (The Queen Up Close) previewed Thursday in the daily El Pais.

The book is an updated version of a biography written by Pilar Urbano 13 years ago. Urbano is a well-known journalist who has written for conservative newspapers.

The Royal Palace said the Greek-born queen had been misquoted.

"The supposed comments which, anyway, were made in a private sphere, do not exactly match the opinions expressed by Her Majesty The Queen," it said in a statement.

Spain legalized gay marriage in 2005.

Gay and lesbian association COLEGAS said it respected Sofia's opinions but added: "The majority of Spaniards are in favor of gay marriage, and the majority do not reject the term marriage to refer to the union between people of the same sex."

In the book, the Queen, who married King Juan Carlos in 1962, also criticized abortion and gay pride parades.

"I can understand, accept and respect there are people of another sexual orientation, but that they feel proud to be gay? That they should get on a float?"

Gay pride, begun in the United States in the 1970s, has become a popular celebration in Spanish cities, with Madrid hosting Euro Pride in 2007, which organizers said attracted around 2.5 million people.

The chief spokesman for the opposition conservative Popular Party was unhappy with the Queen's comments, saying the royal family should not wade into politics.

"I think that the King, the Queen, if they are there for anything, it is to be like the flag, and we see the flag as meeting its role in official acts but not making public statements," Esteban Gonzalez Pons told Telemadrid.

Pons said that although the Queen's views may have offended half of Spaniards, another half supported them, particularly elderly Catholics like Sofia, who will turn 70 Sunday.

Pons's party also argued against calling gay unions marriage and several Popular Party mayors have refused to marry gay couples.

(Reporting by Sarah Morris, Teresa Larraz and Blanca Rodriguez)

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