Members of Portugal's Socialist Party
are backing a gay marriage bill headed to Parliament. Debate on the
bill is expected to begin in January.
Passage in the Socialist-controlled
Parliament is nearly certain, the AP reports, but a presidential veto
threatens the bill from becoming law.
President Anibal Cavaco Silva has
publicly stated his opposition to gay marriage.
In July, Portugal's Constitutional
Court upheld the constitutionality of a gay marriage ban, denying a
lesbian couple the right to marry. In a 3 to 2 decision, the court
said that while the Constitution outlaws discrimination based on
sexual orientation, it does not say gay marriage must be permitted.
After the loss, Prime Minister Jose
Socrates, who heads the Socialist Party, pledged to introduce a gay
marriage bill if returned to power in the general election, despite
strong opposition from the Catholic Church.
If Parliament approves the measure,
it's possible President Silva could forward the issue to the
Constitutional Court, commentators have speculated in the Portuguese
The Vatican condemned the legalization
of gay marriage in neighboring Spain in 2005 and has called for the
ouster of Socialists in the country.
Gay marriage is legal in five European
counties, including Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and, most