Gay rights groups have praised Portugal’s conservative president for ratifying a law on gay marriage, despite his personal beliefs on the matter.
Portugal becomes the sixth country in Europe to allow same-sex weddings, less than a week after a visit by the Pope, who spoke out against the law.
“We feel that we’re experiencing a memorable, emotional moment,” said Socialist government MP Vitalinos Canas. “It’s a huge step for civilisation, taken by our country.”
“This unnecessarily divides Portuguese society,” said centre-right opposition member Miguel Macedo from the Social Democratic Party. He argues there were other solutions to safeguard people’s rights, which don’t need to be called marriage.
The law was passed in February by the minority Socialist government after a fierce debate in this predominantly Catholic country.
The Portuguese President said there was no point in dragging out the debate, when energy needed to be spent fighting the economic crisis.
Anibal Cavaco Silva said: “There are moments in the life of a country when ethical responsibility has to be placed above one’s personal convictions.”
The law’s ratification came just days after Pope Benedict left Portugal. During his visit he said same-sex marriage was among what he called the “insidious and dangerous” threats in the world.