Following Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Portugal last week in which he called gay marriage “insidious and dangerous”, it was feared that Portugal’s president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, would decline to sign a gay marriage bill that lawmakers passed in January. However, Silva announced on Monday – coincidentally the International Day Against Homophobia – that he would ratify the bill, pointing out that because the legislature had enough votes to override his veto, blocking the bill would be pointless and only divert attention from the country’s current economic crisis.
From the Associated Press:
LISBON, Portugal — Portugal’s conservative president announced Monday he is ratifying a law allowing gay marriage in the predominantly Catholic country.
The head of state’s decision to permit the enactment of a bill passed by Parliament in January makes Portugal the sixth European country allowing same-sex couples to wed.
President Anibal Cavaco Silva said in a nationally televised address he regretted that the country’s political parties had failed to reach a compromise during days of heated debate in Parliament four months ago.
Vetoing the bill would only send it back to Parliament where lawmakers would overturn his decision, he said, adding that the country needed to focus on overcoming an economic crisis that has increased unemployment and deepened poverty…
Last month, Silva, a conservative Roman Catholic and member of the PSD party which opposes the legalization of gay marriage and rallied against the bill, forwarded four out of five of the bill’s articles to Portugal’s Constitutional Court, saying he had doubts over their legality. However, the court’s majority ruled that the four articles were constitutionally sound.
Speaking on why he made the decision to ratify the bill rather than sending it back to lawmakers who would almost certainly override his veto with a majority vote, Silva said, “Given that fact, I feel I should not contribute to a pointless extension of this debate, which would only serve to deepen the divisions between the Portuguese and divert the attention of politicians away from the grave problems affecting us.” The seventy-year-old president made this announcement in a televised address to the nation, and said that he was putting aside “personal convictions” for the best interests of the country.
It should be noted that the bill does not give married same-sex couples the right to adopt, something which gay rights advocates will continue to push for. The original text of the bill had a provision affording same-sex married couples that right, but this measure was dropped before the bill was passed in January.
With the bill signed, Portugal will join Canada, the Netherlands, Spain, South Africa, Norway, Belgium and Sweden in allowing gay marriage.
Iceland looks set to be the next country to allow marriage equality, expanding on the country’s existing domestic partnership law. Argentina’s lawmakers are also currently debating legalizing gay marriage. In a historic vote, the House of Deputies approved same-sex marriage by a considerable majority on May 5, and the bill has now been sent to a Senate committee where it will be debated this week. In drafting a new constitution, Nepal is also on course to allow same-sex marriages which, it appears, will be a flagship part of the country’s new tourism drive.
Congratulations to Portugal!
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