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Day Late, Peseta Short in Spain

DECEMBER 18, 2001. Shortly after General Francisco Franco's 40-year dictatorship ended in Spain with his death in 1975, thousands of prisoners were released, pardoned, and later compensated.

Gays imprisoned under the dictatorship's homophobic laws, however, were forced to serve out their sentences. Their "criminal" records remained on the books and Spain's new democratic rulers didn't even offer a mild apology.

Last week, a mere 26 years after the fact, the Spanish Parliament took one step to begin redressing the damage when it ordered that sentences for homosexuality be deleted from police and court records.

But a motion to financially compensate the thousands of gays, mostly men, imprisoned, tortured or locked up in mental hospitals during the dictatorship, was killed by the governing conservative party.

Gays don't consider the fight over. "What we want is a declaration of moral indemnification for people whose lives were stolen by the state," said Pedro Zerolo, president of the Federation of Gays and Lesbians, Spain's largest gay group.

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