Portugal's President Anibal Cavaco Silva will sign a gay marriage bill approved by lawmakers, the AP reported.

Portugal now becomes the sixth European country to grant gay and lesbian couples the right to marry. The law, approved in January by lawmakers, does not permit gay couples to adopt.

The seventy-year-old president announced his decision is a televised address to the nation.

Last month, the president, a Roman Catholic and a member of the PSD party, groups which oppose the legalization of gay marriage, forwarded four out of five of the bill's articles to the nation's Constitutional Court, setting aside the measure that prohibits gay adoption. He said he did so because he doubted the bill's constitutionality.

The court's majority agreed that the four articles were constitutional, leaving Cavaco Silva to decide whether to sign or veto the bill.

Last week, Pope Benedict called on Portuguese Roman Catholics to oppose gay marriage as the president considered the issue.

Speaking in the Portuguese city of Fatima, the pope called for a greater defense of what he said were “essential and primary values of life,” among which he included the family. He said the family was “founded on indissoluble marriage between man and woman.”

Abortion – legal in Portugal since 2007 – and gay marriage were “among some of the most insidious and dangerous challenges facing the common good today.”

Cavaco Silva lamented his decision, saying he was only doing so because Social Democrats – led by Prime Minister Jose Socrates – were certain to overturn his veto.

“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,” he said.

He said that, in signing the law, he was setting aside “personal convictions” for the greater good of the country.

Gay marriage is legal in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Norway.

Iceland and Argentina are also considering legalizing gay marriage.