A gay marriage bill before Portugal's
Parliament won initial approval on Friday, the BBC reported, but
lawmakers have rejected provisions that would allow gay adoption.
Members of Portugal's Socialist Party
backed the bill as it faced its first reading. The bill heads to a
committee for review before returning for a final vote. Lawmakers
say they hope to legalize gay marriage before a May visit by Pope
Passage in the Socialist-controlled
Parliament is nearly certain, but a presidential veto threatens to
prevent the bill from becoming law. President Anibal Cavaco Silva
has publicly stated his opposition to granting gay and lesbian couples
the right to marry.
Last 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.
Commentators in the Portuguese press
have speculated that if Parliament approves the measure, President
Silva could possibly forward the issue to the Constitutional Court.
The Vatican condemned the 2005
legalization of gay marriage in neighboring Spain and has called for
the ouster of Socialists who supported the law. But the Catholic
Church in Portugal has refused to become involved in the issue.
Lisbon's Cardinal Patriarch Jose
Policarpo has called marriage “Parliament's responsibility.”
Seven countries – Canada, Norway,
Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, South Africa and most recently
Sweden – have legalized gay marriage. Several cities in Latin
America recognize gay unions and a gay marriage law approved by
lawmakers in Mexico City is expected to take effect in February.