the first married gay couple in Spain whom only death could separate

the first married gay couple in Spain whom only death could separate

With the death of New Yorker Carlos Baturín, Asturian Emilio Menéndez has not only lost a husband: “He has been the love of my life, my guide, the person who made me happy and put my head in the right place.” The good moments, the small details and the long conversations they shared for 50 years are the memories that crowd into his memory today as he takes a breath because verbalizing his feelings makes him emotional.

Carlos was in very poor health. His heart was weak, he had a breathing problem and had been diagnosed with congestive lung disease. Since 2022, the couple barely left their home in Madrid. Emilio dedicated himself to caring for him and when Carlos died on April 28, he decided to pass his pain in privacy.

“50 years is a lifetime of memories”

The first days were very hard for him: “When I woke up in the morning and realized what had happened, it was like the earth opened up for me,” he describes.

His tranquility was broken on June 2 when the news emerged that one of the parties at the first gay wedding, which took place in Spain in 2005, had died. From that moment on, he has had to make a great emotional effort to overcome and pay him a tribute of love and gratitude by recounting some of his memories.

Emilio acknowledges that “there are so many and so beautiful” memories that come to mind that he doesn’t know where to start because he says that “50 years together is a lifetime of memories.”

We start at the beginning. They met when Emilio, a young man in his twenties who lived in the town of Pola de Allande, a small council in the western part of Asturias, moved to live in Madrid and met Carlos, a psychiatrist ten years older than him, in a cafeteria in the capital “that was not gay”.

They were the hard years of the dictatorship, when homosexuals had to flirt in clandestine places because they were still persecuted and many parents considered it “an annoyance” to have a son who loved another man. The conversation that day led to a relationship “of honesty and affection” that remained unchanged 50 years later.

From anonymity to a wedding that went around the world

Emilio took advantage of the fact that Carlos was going to live in New York (USA) to take his revalidation to accompany him. Shortly after, he returned to Spain to fulfill his military service because, as he says, he did not want to become a fugitive. Once graduated, the couple returned to reside in the United States, although they settled in Boston where Carlos had a job.

“The American period was one of the happiest because we had our house, we could lead a normal life and the relationship was consolidated,” he says. Five years later, she returned to Spain again and settled in Madrid.

Their relationship emerged from the anonymity of their closest circle to reach a global dimension on July 11, 2005 when the couple became the first gay marriage in Spain. The civil wedding, held at the Tres Cantos Town Hall, in Madrid, was officiated by the then IU councilor José Luis Martínez Cestao.

The link had a great media impact. A hundred media outlets gathered at the town hall to capture an image that was going to go around the world.

Emilio and Carlos officially formalized their relationship taking advantage of the fact that the law that gave free rein to homosexual marriage had just come into force, during the government of the socialist José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, and before it could be taken to the Constitutional Court and overturned.

Below we reproduce several of the news items published in those years. Headlines such as “Marriage for all” or “The first gay yes” were just some examples that filled the covers and inside pages on social media.

Emilio has always openly expressed his personal opinions on current issues such as the arrival of the extreme right to institutions or the suicides of victims of harassment due to their sexual orientation, among others. Last year they were collected in an interview that he gave to Asturias in July 2023.

Among other statements, Emilio acknowledged that he did not fear that Vox’s emergence into the institutions and the pacts reached with the PP would imply a setback in social rights because he maintained that it would be limited to the staging of symbolic gestures. “I’m not afraid. If you have to go out into the street, you go out. We are more than them. Let the legislation not touch us, because it becomes weaponized,” he warned.

Carlos’ illness brought him even closer to him. The last two years have been “bad” because health problems were taking their toll. However, both took advantage of the time to “chat a lot” and those long conversations have left him “very calm” because he has been able to tell him everything he felt about him and convey that gratitude that he makes public today for having changed his life.

“We wanted to live our last adventure together”

“We haven’t left anything out. I had absolutely nothing left to say to him, or to show him because we have been very honest with each other our whole lives. That’s why we loved each other so much and we both knew what was going to happen and we accepted it,” she emphasizes.

Lately Carlos no longer had the strength, although he did have a lot of determination. She was aware of the evolution of her illness and thus she transmitted it to her husband: “She told me that one day it would have to be, because he was 88 years old. It was quite assumed and we decided that we wanted to live it as our last adventure together and that we were going to try to carry it out as naturally as possible,” says Emilio.

And his last wish was fulfilled. The two voluntarily secluded themselves in the privacy of their home and only doctors and nurses entered their home “when necessary.”

Avoid the emotions of farewell

His last trip to Pola de Allande was in 2022. On that occasion, Carlos was already traveling in a wheelchair, although he did not particularly like it and immediately replaced it with an electric motorcycle.

Her husband admits that one of the biggest regrets he has left is that they will no longer return together to their homeland: “He adored Asturias, but it had to be one day. He told me that he would go if he could go, but then I was convinced that he would think that he was going to say goodbye and it was a complicated situation.”

The same feeling occurred when the Asturias family went to Madrid to see him. After a very pleasant day, when they said goodbye, Carlos asked Emilio if they had gone to say goodbye to him.

“I told him no, that they had come to see him because they knew that maybe he couldn’t go. Those were sad moments. That’s why we didn’t want to have many visitors, nothing more than family and friends so that he wouldn’t get too excited, or think that everyone was stopping by to say goodbye,” he explains.

The anecdotes accumulate. He remembers that Carlos really liked licorice and although it was not very convenient for him to eat it and he rationed it because he couldn’t eat salt, from time to time he would buy him a package, especially in recent times.

“So I had it stored in a kitchen drawer and from time to time he would ask me if I could give him a couple of licorice. This morning I found the licorice and cried like a fool. They are those little things that touch your soul,” he illustrates.

“Carlos was the architect of my liberation. He was the one who put my head in his place. He not only gave me a happy life, but from the beginning he helped me. He freed me from my sufferings. He is a person I have loved not only because I fell in love with him, but also because I am deeply grateful to him. From the first months when we met and we did not yet have a relationship, he treated me almost like a patient based on affection and trust. I think that before and after the illness, without me realizing it, he gave me therapy again, he did it at the beginning and he did it at the end,” he explains.

He believes that life has been very good to him for having found that “charming” person with whom he has shared 50 years of his life.

Future plans

“I know I will have some days that are sadder than another. People tell me that I am very strong, but I tell them no. My mother said that you had to be happy with many things that life dictates and there is no way to change them. And I think I have a good attitude,” she says.

He has no plans for this new stage. Initially, there is no plan to attend this year the events organized for Gay Pride that will be held from June 28 to July 7.

“No. At first I don’t think I’ll go. The truth is that I don’t want to show myself off as Spain’s widower either,” she corroborates.

He is convinced that if he has to make all the visits he has promised, he has until the fall because it would mean going from one end to the other, from north to south and from east to west.

“If I comply with all that, I already have plans for the summer,” he says. Among those scheduled trips there will be no shortage of his native Asturias and, of course, Pola de Allande, the town from which one day he left for Madrid and where he found the man with whom he has shared his life story.

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