Portugal – the gay issue
Posted by Fr Mark on January 8, 2010
From AFP, 8.1.10:
LISBON — Portugal’s parliament approved a bill to legalise same sex marriages on Friday, less than 30 years after the country revoked its ban on homosexuality.
Lawmakers rejected proposals to allow gay couples to adopt, but otherwise the bill passed with little public controversy in what has traditionally been one of Europe’s most socially conservative countries.
In contrast to Spain, where the run-up to the legalisation of gay marriage in 2005 brought hundreds of thousands of demonstrators onto the streets, the bill in Portugal provoked only muted opposition even from the political right.
After less than three hours’ debate, Friday’s parliamentary vote went mainly along party lines, with the left-wing majority backing the measure proposed by Prime Minister Jose Socrates and the right-wing opposition voting against.
It will now be reviewed in committee before coming back for a final vote in parliament, and could gain final approval before a visit by Pope Benedict XVI, due in Portugal in May.
Gay rights campaigners outside parliament greeted the result with cries of joy and celebrated with champagne and wedding cake.
Socrates said the aim of the legislation was to remedy decades of injustice towards gays, recalling that as recently as 1982 homosexuality was a crime in Portugal.
Parliament also defeated a demand backed by the right for a referendum following a petition which collected more than 90,000 signatures.
While normally vocal on the role of marriage and the family in society, the Catholic Church refused to mobilise on the issue, which Lisbon’s Cardinal Patriarch Jose Policarpo said was “parliament’s responsibility”.