Portugal could soon become the sixth European country to allow same-sex marriages. The gay community has campaigned hard for the measure and, after giving its backing, the Socialist government will now put the proposition before parliament.
With left-of-centre parties holding the majority, the green light looks guaranteed — a prospect that has outraged traditionalists in this staunchly Roman Catholic country.
The opposition Conservatives have a counter proposal for a compromise civil union. Their parliamentary leader Jose Pedro Aguiar-Branco says it would still safeguard rights and duties but would not constitute same-sex marriage.
The Socialists pledged to introduce gay marriage in the campaign that recently won them re-election. While other parties on the left support the move, some in parliament say it does not go far enough, arguing that gay couples should also be allowed to adopt.
“It is strange that while getting rid of discrimination over direct access to marriage, we are creating a new discrimination for people of the same sex,” said Ana Drago, a Left Bloc Member of Parliament
Neighbouring Spain is one of five European countries to allow gay marriage. There, adoption by same sex couples is permitted. That is not envisaged in Portugal where efforts by two lesbians seeking to marry earlier this year were blocked by the Constitutional Court.