Portugal Offers Legal Marriage
© January 22, 2010, Demian
On January 5, 2010, Portugal became the 8th country to offer legal marriage to same-sex couples.
The law does not include allowing same-sex couples to adopt children as a couple.
The marriage law fulfills a campaign promise by Prime Minister Jose Socrates during his January 2009 campaign as a Socialist. All left-wing parties joined the governing Socialists in voting “Yes.” The center-right Social Democratic deputies all voted “No.” The bill for marriage was ratified by president Anibal Cavaco Silva on May 17, 2010.
While Silva is a rightist, Portugal is a parliamentary democracy, in which the president is a largely ceremonial figure. Even if the president vetoed the bill, parliament can re-pass it over his objections.
Prime Minister Jose Socrates took the floor in person to introduce the bill, saying it would put right an injustice that had caused unnecessary pain.
The Social Democrats introduced a counter-proposal for expanded civil unions, but this was rejected as discriminatory by the Socialists. Portugal first approved limited civil unions in 2001 under a previous Socialist government.
The new law has been fiercely opposed by Roman Catholic conservatives. Rightist parties wanted a national referendum on the issue and circulated a petition that collected more than 90,000 signatures.
Marriage equality first became a national political issue in Portugal’s 2005 elections. At that time, the Socialists failed to take a clear position on the proposal, although the Socialist Party’s youth organization came out strongly in favor.
In 2008, the Left Bloc in the Portuguese parliament introduced a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, but it was opposed by both the Socialists and the right, and failed 202-28.
Portugal passed a civil divorce law on May 27, 1975, which was one of the first acts of the new democratically elected Socialist government. The long-standing laws against homosexuality were repealed by a center-right government in 1982. Jose Socrates’ government legalized abortions in 2008.
While 84.5 percent of Portugal’s citizenry are Roman Catholic, the church’s influence has been diminished by its association with the series of dictators who ruled Portugal from 1926-1974. The constitution of 1975 specifies that Portugal is a secular state.
Should a Portuguese same-sex married couple come to the U.S., the U.S. would refuse to recognize the marriage because the DoMA law.
Also, the majority of U.S. states have made laws denying recognition to any legal marriage licenses held by same-sex couples.
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