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article imagePortuguese Parliament Votes to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

By Chris Dade     Jan 8, 2010 in Lifestyle
Portugal looks set to become the sixth country in Europe to legalize same-sex marriage after the country's parliament passed a bill Friday approving same-sex wedding ceremonies that now needs ratification by the Portuguese President before becoming law.
Opposition to same-sex marriage in Portugal is, says the BBC, led by conservatives in the predominantly Roman Catholic country in southwestern Europe. Think Progress notes that more than 84 percent of people in Portugal identify themselves as Roman Catholic.
And it is a conservative President, Anibal Cavaco Silva, who has the opportunity to veto a bill that was passed by 125 votes to 99. However the Miami Herald reports that President Cavaco Silva is considered unlikely to exercise his veto, meaning that the first same-sex wedding ceremonies could take place in Portugal in April.
It was the governing Socialist Party and Prime Minister Jose Socrates, together with other left-of-center parties, that supported the bill to legalize same-sex marriages and the center-right Social Democratic Party, of which President Cavaco Silva is a member, that opposed the measure.
Indeed, according to the BBC, the Social Democratic Party incurred the wrath of their opponents by proposing that Portugal adopt same-sex civil unions, there is a vague law allowing such arrangements in Portugal already but the rights it grants are reportedly limited, instead of same-sex marriages.
A petition of more than 90,000 signatures, collected by right-of-center parties, calling for a national referendum on same-sex marriage was rejected, Prime Minister Socrates explaining that the measure was in the Socialist Party's manifesto for the election held in Portugal last September, after which the party of the Prime Minister returned to power, and therefore voters were aware same-sex marriage was likely to become law in the country at some time in the future.
The vote in the Portuguese parliament came on the same day as the Senate in the U.S. state of New Jersey rejected by 20 votes to 14 a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage. As the report on Digital Journal indicates supporters of same-sex marriage in New Jersey are now preparing to go to court, claiming that the state's Legislature "defaulted on its constitutional obligation to give same-sex couples equal protections".
Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Norway are the European countries that have to date legalized same-sex marriage, Canada and South Africa having done so as well, in addition to a small number of states in the U.S.
Prime Minister Socrates described the imminent change in the law, assuming the President does not use his veto and there are no problems when the bill is reviewed in committee and returned to parliament for another vote, as a "very important and symbolic step towards fully ensuring respect for values that are essential in any democratic, open and tolerant society: the values of freedom, equality and non-discrimination".
One person certain to be unhappy about the vote in the Portuguese parliament on Friday is Pope Benedict XVI, a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage who is due to visit the country on the Iberian Peninsula, with a population of 11 million people, in May.
A proposal to allow homosexual couples in Portugal, a nation in which homosexuality remained a crime until 1982, to adopt was voted on and defeated on Friday.
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