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Madrid plaza renamed to honour gay rights hero

Jessica Jones · 22 Jul 2015, 10:38

Published: 22 Jul 2015 10:38 GMT+02:00

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The Spanish capital’s city hall, led by left-wing mayor Manuela Carmena, has approved the proposal to change the name of the central Madrid square from Plaza Vázquez de Mella to Plaza Pedro Zerolo.

"The change of name of the current Plaza de Vázquez de Mella in the Central District of Madrid, to the Plaza de Pedro Zerolo, has been approved," Madrid's city hall tweeted on Wednesday. 

The square, in the heart of Madrid’s gay neighbourhood of Chueca, is currently named after Juan Vázquez de Mella, a Spanish scholar and politician who was closely associated with the conservative Catholic movement, Carlism.

Zerolo, who died from pancreatic cancer aged 55 on June 9th was a prominent lawyer, politician and councillor in Madrid, as well as a gay rights activist.

Following his death, supporters started a petition on the website change.org calling for the square to be renamed in Zerolo's honour. The petition has collected 84,800 signatures in the little over a month that it has been online.  

In the early 1990s, Zerolo worked as a legal consultant for the Gay Collective of Madrid (COGAM), later becoming the organization's president.

"They have approved the proposal to change the name, it will be Pedro Zerolo and will include a statue in his memory," COGAM tweeted. 

Eventually he was named president of what is now called the National Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals (FELGTB) and in 2004 joined the board of directors for the International Lesbian and Gay Association. The association tweeted its delight at the news, writing, "Together we have succeeded. Thank you to everyone who signed for #PlazaPedroZerolo".

Zerolo was instrumental in the creation of Spain’s marriage equality laws. Starting in 2001, Zerolo began working on negotiations with government officials on amendments to the Spanish Civil Code regarding the definition of marriage.

Spain celebrates 10 years of gay marriage 

Given his legal background, Zerolo worked on changing all mentions of "husband and wife" to "spouses", as well as "mother and father" to "parents". 

In 2005, the Socialist administration of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero passed laws allowing same-sex marriage as well as adoption rights for same-sex couples, making Spain the first country to grant full equality in marriage for both gay and straight couples.

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That same year, Zerolo married his partner Jesús Santos.

The move to change the square’s name might not be the last in Madrid; the city’s left-wing council – the first in 24 years – has also spoken of its desire to change the name of Margaret Thatcher square, inaugurated little over a year ago in memory of the late British Prime Minister. 

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Jessica Jones (jessica.jones@thelocal.com)

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