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Friday, 9 April 2010

Portugal Clears Last Hurdle to Marriage Equality

The Portuguese parliament approved legislation to recognise same sex marriage some time ago, but there has been little news since then. The reason was simple - the country's President was against the principle, claiming that it was against his Catholic conscience, but was reluctant to take a principled stand against it himself. Instead, he forwarded the bill (more accurately, four of its five articles: he had no objection to the clause which prohibits gay adoption) to the constitutional court for review, obviously hoping that they would find cause to obstruct it. Instead, the court has now approved the legislation. In principle, the President could still veto the law, but I would think this unlikely. The measure has enough support in parliament to override a veto; if he was reluctant to exercise his veto earlier, he is less likely to do so now that there is confirmation that the measure is constitutional; and uniquely for an overwhelmingly Catholic country, even the local bishops have not been overly vigorous in opposition. I would think that we can take it that Portugal will soon be the sixth European country, and the second strongly Catholic one (after Spain), to approve same sex marriage.

Only one thing can really stand in their way - whether Denmark or Iceland get there first: both of these Nordic, Lutheran countries are also on the way to full marriage equality (as are Slovenia and Cyprus).
Portugal's Constitutional Court has OK'd a gay marriage bill approved by lawmakers, Portugal's IOL Diario reported.
President Anibal Cavaco Silva said he forwarded four out of five of the bill's articles to the Constitutional Court because “he had doubts about its constitutionality.” The excluded article bans adoption by married gay and lesbian couples. Cavaco Silva, a Roman Catholic and a member of the PSD party, groups which oppose the legalization of gay marriage, has remained mum on why he set aside the adoption measure.
In an opinion released Thursday and written by Justice Victor Gomes, the court's majority agreed the bill is constitutional. Two judges disagreed.
Portugal's Socialist-controlled Parliament, led by Prime Minister Jose Socrates, approved the gay marriage bill on February 11.
The president still has the option of vetoing the legislation, but Socrates has said he is prepared to overturn the veto.
The Vatican has vociferously opposed laws that grant gay couples the right to marry. Pope Benedict has called for the ouster of Socialists in Spain who approved a gay marriage law in 2005, but the church's opposition in the Catholic stronghold of Portugal has been muted. However, Benedict is widely expected to criticize the bill when he visits Portugal next month.
If approved, Portugal would join five European countries – Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and, most recently, Sweden – in legalizing gay marriage.

Related posts, gay marriage in Europe:

Gay Marriage - Coming to Iceland?

Gay Marriage, in Church: Denmark Next?

Marriage Equality: In Europe, a Human Right?

Marriage Equality: Is Cyprus Next?

Gay Marriage Europe Wide: 10 Year Forecast

Marriage Equality On All Continents!

Marriage Equality Gains More Ground

20 Years ago: Berlin Wall Falls; Death Knell for Apartheid; Birth of Marriage Equality

Gay Marriage - in Church

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