Portugese parliament rejects gay marriage bill

Source: The Star (Toronto) / Reuters
10 Oct 2008

Portugese parliament rejects gay marriage bill

Axel Bugge
Reuters News Agency

LISBON–Portugal’s parliament rejected a proposal on Friday to allow gay marriage, sparking anger among gays who say they face discrimination in the conservative Catholic country.

The proposal by the small Left Bloc and Green parties to overturn an existing ban was overwhelmingly rejected as the ruling Socialists, who hold a majority, joined the centre-right opposition in opposing the move.

Parliament president Jaime Gaime did not give a final vote breakdown but said the proposal had been rejected, the legislature’s television channel showed.

Outside parliament, about thirty gays protested by staging two mock marriages.

“I am here because there are citizens who are full citizens in their duties but not citizens in their rights and that is a very serious mistake in a democracy,” Joana, a woman who married her partner, told Reuters Television.

“Old homophobes!” a gay protester shouted inside the voting chamber after the vote, before being led out by police.

Gays were encouraged that a referendum in Portugal last year overturned a ban on abortion, hoping it would usher in what they see as more progressive and modern values elsewhere in Europe. Neighbouring Spain has allowed gay marriages since 2005.

But Catholic values still hold sway on many social issues in Portugal. Cardinal Jose Policarpo, the patriarch of Lisbon, warned that allowing gay marriages would be a violation of the family.

“What is in question is breaking the profound conception of the family,” he said on Radio Renascenca, a Catholic radio station.

Alice Ferreira, a 70-year-old pensioner, told SIC television that gays could have their own sexual preferences but they should not be allowed to marry.

“I don’t think they could be real marriages because marriages are intended to create families,” she said.

Supporters of the change argue that the ban on gay marriage included in Portugal’s civil code is illegal under the 1975 constitution, which bans sexual discrimination.

Polls have shown under 30 per cent of Portuguese approve of gay marriage against an average around 45 per cent in the European Union, according to Eurobarometer.

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