This week, the president of Portugal announced his decision to ratify a law allowing gay marriage in the small European country. The same-sex marriage bill first passed in the Portuguese parliament in January, but was subject to a presidential veto. The president’s decision to sign the bill into law makes Portugal the sixth European country allowing same-sex couples to wed.
The ratification by President Anibal Cavaco Silva, described as a practicing Catholic, comes just days after a papal visit to the predominantly Catholic country where Pope Benedict spoke out against the legislation. When the Portuguese parliament first passed the same-sex “marriage” legislation, the Pope called it an “attack” on the “natural differences between men and women.”
In his address to Catholic lay workers in Fatima last week, Benedict XVI expressed his deep appreciation for “initiatives aimed at protecting the essential and primary values of life, beginning at conception, and of the family based on the indissoluble marriage between a man and a woman, [that] help to respond to some of today’s most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good. Such initiatives represent, alongside numerous other forms of commitment, essential elements in the building of the civilization of love.”
The Socialist government’s bill was backed by all of Portugal’s left-of-center parties, who comprise a Parliamentary majority. Right-wing parties opposed the legislation and demanded a national referendum. Despite opposition, however, the Constitutional Court of Portugal ruled that the bill was legal last month.
More than 90% of the Portuguese population identifies themselves as Catholic, but the passage of the same-sex “marriage” law is just the latest in a trend away from Catholic values. After years of being targeted by abortion rights advocates, Portugal liberalized their strict abortion laws in 2007. Prior to the change, Portugal had one of Europe’s most pro-life laws; permitting abortion up to 12 weeks only in cases of rape or to save the life of the mother. The liberalized law now allows abortion on demand up to the 10th week of pregnancy, requiring only a three-day waiting period.
International homosexual groups have heralded the decision and have said they do not intend to stop there. When the law first passed in parliament last January the European arm of International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) announced that, “It is clear that a European consensus is fast emerging on marriage equality.” Linda Freimane, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board cautioned that despite the promising start, “there still is a fight for full equality – and that is also including entitlement to adoption.”
Portugal’s left-leaning trend has also become apparent at the United Nations. At the Commission on Population and Development last month, Portugal led the push for numerous references to “sexual and reproductive health” and language on comprehensive sexuality education for young people, despite sustained opposition from a number of other countries.
The other European countries to allow same-sex “marriage” are the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Norway and Sweden.