Thousands of Portuguese poured onto the
streets of Lisbon Sunday in protest of a gay marriage law currently
seeking the president's approval, the Spanish news agency EFE
Organizers estimated the event, called
“in defense of the family,” attracted a crowd of 5,000, but no
official figures were reported.
Demonstrators marched down Lisbon's
main downtown artery Av. da Liberdade (Liberty Avenue) calling on
President Anibal Cavaco Silva to reject a gay marriage law approved
twice by lawmakers. Silva is a Roman Catholic and a member of the
PSD party, groups which oppose the legalization of gay marriage, and
he has publicly stated his opposition to gay marriage. However,
Silva has several options before him, including vetoing the bill.
Commentators in the Portuguese press have speculated he could forward
the issue to the Constitutional Court. Last year, despite the fact
that Portugal's Constitution outlaws discrimination based on sexual
orientation, the court denied a lesbian couple the right to marry in
a narrow 3-to-2 decision. The ruling prompted Socialists to draft
the gay marriage bill.
Protesters are also demanding a
referendum on gay marriage, although Parliamentarians have already
rejected such a measure.
Portugal's Parliament approved the bill
on February 11 and forwarded it to the president. Under the bill,
gay and lesbian couples would be allowed to marry but not adopt
Cavaco Silva has a week left to decide
what to do with the bill. Supporters, however, say a veto would only
delay the legislation. The Socialist-controlled Parliament, led by
Prime Minister Jose Socrates, is prepared to overturn a presidential
The Vatican condemned the legalization
of gay marriage in neighboring Spain in 2005 and has called for the
ouster of Socialists in the country, but the church's opposition in
Portugal has been muted. However, Pope Benedict is widely expected
to criticize the bill when he visits Portugal in May.
Gay marriage is legal in five European
counties, including Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and, most