A lesbian couple was the first to wed
Monday as Portugal's gay marriage law came into force, the AP
Teresa Pires and Helena Paixao tied the
knot in a Lisbon registry office. The ceremony was attended by about
The women first attempted to marry in
2006, taking their fight all the way to the nation's Constitutional
In 2009, the court narrowly ruled
against the women, saying the constitution does not explicitly permit
such marriages despite its prohibition against discrimination based
on sexual orientation.
“It shows there is a change coming,”
Paixao said at the time about the split decision. “Bit by bit
people will come around” to accept gay marriage.
Beginning Monday, marriage in Portugal
is defined as a “contract between two people wishing to form
families through the full communion of life.”
Prime Minister Jose Socrates, a Social
Democrat, promised to legalize gay marriage if his party was returned
to power. Lawmakers approved the bill in February.
Portugal's conservative president,
Anibal Cavaco Silva, reluctantly signed the gay marriage bill into
law on May 17, saying he was only doing so because Social Democrats
were certain to overturn a veto.
Social conservatives had urged the
president to veto the bill. Pope Benedict condemned the institution
as he toured the predominantly Roman Catholic nation just days before
the president ratified the law. Speaking in the city of Fatima, the
pope called gay marriage “insidious and dangerous” and urged
Catholics to stand united in opposition.
The new law prohibits gay and lesbian
couples from adopting.
After the ceremony, Pires called her
marriage “a dream come true.” The couple said they would
continue to fight for additional rights, including adoption.
Portugal joins five European countries
– Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Norway and most recently Sweden
– in legalizing gay marriage.
Lawmakers in Iceland
are also debating the issue.