Enormous crowds from all over Spain took to the streets of Madrid on Saturday, to protest against a proposal by the socialist government to put gay unions on an equal footing with heterosexual marriage. Over 500 buses were laid on to ferry people to the city, along with special flights from the Canary Islands and Spanish areas in Morocco. Lead by 20 Catholic bishops, including the Archbishop of Madrid, the march was supported by the conservative opposition Popular Party. The two groups called for Spaniards of all ages to show their disapproval of parliament's passage of a law legalizing homosexual marriage and the adoption of children for gay couples. Although the law has passed the lower house, it still needs senate approval to go into force. If the law is passed, it will make Spain the most liberal country in Europe with regard to gay rights and the first to allow gay adoption. Belgium, Holland, Germany and Scandinavia recognise gay unions, but not marriages. The protest marks the first time in more than 20 years that the Catholic Church has involved itself in Spanish politics. When Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero took office over a year ago, he made it clear he intended to remove what he called the Church's 'undeniable advantages' and make Spain a secular state. Mr Zapatero has indicated that he also intends to streamline divorce law and even to relax the conditions placed on abortion.
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