Same-sex marriage in Portugal
|Legal status of
*Not yet in effect
Same-sex marriage has been legal in Portugal since 5 June 2010. The government of Prime Minister José Sócrates introduced a bill for legalization in December 2009; it was passed by the Assembly of the Republic in February 2010. The bill was declared legally valid by the Portuguese Constitutional Court in April 2010. On 17 May 2010, President Aníbal Cavaco Silva ratified the law and Portugal became the sixth country in Europe and the eighth country in the world to allow same-sex marriage nationwide. The law was published in the official journal Diário da Republica on 31 May 2010 and became effective on 5 June 2010.
Constitutional Court ruling
On 1 February 2006, a lesbian couple applied for a marriage licence. Their application was refused, but the couple, Teresa Pires and Helena Paixão, promised to challenge the ban in court, saying that it discriminated against them on the basis of sexual orientation, where this type of discrimination is banned by the 1976 constitution. Discrimination based on sexual orientation was made illegal in 2004. In May 2007, the court rejected the motion and they appealed to the Portuguese Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court received the case in July 2007. Helena and Teresa's lawyer, Luís Grave Rodrigues, presented their allegations on 19 October 2007, including seven legal opinions (pareceres) from Portuguese professors of law arguing that the ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
On 31 July 2009, the Constitutional Court decided on a 3–2 vote that the constitution does not demand the recognition of same-sex marriage, but also does not oppose it, and that the decision must be made by the Assembly of the Republic.
The BE and PEV's 2008 bills
Two bills to legalize same-sex marriage were presented to Parliament on 10 October 2008. The bills were introduced separately by the Left Bloc (BE) and Green Party (PEV). Both bills were rejected by parliament on opposition from the governing Socialist Party and the main opposition Social Democratic Party.
The Government's 2009-2010 bill
Prime Minister José Sócrates stated on 18 January 2009 that, if re-elected in the September 2009 elections, he planned to introduce a bill to allow same-sex couples the right to marry. While the bill did not contemplate adoption, most LGBT organizations in Portugal supported the measure as an important step towards equality.
In March 2009, Jorge Lacão, the Secretary of State for the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, confirmed that the Socialist government intended to legalize same-sex marriage if re-elected in 2009.
In May 2009, a grassroots movement, The Movement for Equality in Access to Civil Marriage, was formed to campaign for the proposed same-sex marriage law. It attracted the support of several Portuguese celebrities, including Nobel Prize winner José Saramago and the Mayor of Lisbon António Costa.
In October 2009, the newly re-elected José Sócrates made an assurance that the Socialist Party would move ahead with its campaign promise of same-sex marriage. The proposition received strong support from the Left Bloc, with its parliamentary leader presenting a proposed amendment to the Family Code which would make the definition of marriage gender-neutral. In mid-October 2009 Jorge Lacão said it would be likely that same-sex marriage would be legalised in early 2010.
On 3 November 2009, José Ribeiro e Castro, a member of the CDS-PP, called for a referendum but the Socialist Party and Left Bloc rejected that idea. On 4 November Francisco Assis, the parliamentary leader of the Socialist Party, said same-sex marriage bill would be voted soon and confirmed that the bill would not allow same-sex couples to adopt children.
On 8 January 2010, after a debate, which included the intervention of the Prime Minister, the Portuguese Parliament passed the bill establishing same-sex marriage in its first reading. On 10 February, the Constitutional Affairs Committee of Parliament approved the bill. The final parliamentary vote took place on 11 February, with the bill being approved. On 24 February 2010, the Constitutional Affairs Committee sent the bill to the Portuguese President Aníbal Cavaco Silva.
On 13 March 2010, the President asked the Constitutional Court to verify whether the bill was constitutional. On 8 April 2010, the Portuguese Constitutional Court ruled (11–2) for the constitutionality of the bill, with three members concluding that the Constitution required the recognition of same-sex marriages. The ruling was published in the official gazette on 28 April, giving President Aníbal Cavaco Silva twenty days to sign, or veto, the bill.
On 17 May 2010, the President signed the bill. The law was published in Diário da República on 31 May 2010 and became effective on 5 June 2010. On 7 June Teresa Pires and Helena Paixão became the first lesbian same-sex couple to marry in Portugal.
Same-sex adoption bills
However, on 17 May 2013, the Parliament passed a law allowing same-sex married couples to adopt their partner's children (i.e. step-child adoption). A law allowing full joint adoption was defeated on a 104-77 vote.
A number of groups opposed legalizing same-sex marriage during the process of discussion and continue to do so after ratification.
The Catholic Church in Portugal was opposed to the law and, while Portugal is a constitutional secular country, its status as a historically Catholic country was also a reason for the media sensationalism which heightened the controversy over the law.
On 8 January 2010, the parliament rejected a motion calling to the national referendum about same-sex marriage. In February, 5,000 people demonstrated against legalization of same-sex marriage in a march in Lisbon.
On 13 May 2010, during an official visit to Portugal four days before the ratification of the law, Pope Benedict XVI, affirmed his opposition to same-sex marriage, describing it as "insidious and dangerous".
On 19 July 2010, Instituto dos Registos e do Notariado published the following rules on marriage:
- Marriages conducted abroad must be transcribed by civil registries even if they were made before the approval date of marriage equality;
- Marriages performed under alternative legislation to civil marriage, such as civil partnerships and civil unions, can not be transcribed;
- Foreign nationals can marry even if marriage between same-sex couples is not recognized in their country of origin;
- Same-sex foreign nationals can marry in Portugal without the need to establish residency;
- Co-adoptions with same-sex couples performed abroad are not recognized in Portugal.
- (Portuguese) Lei Nº9/2010 de 31 de Maio - Permite o casamento civil entre pessoas do mesmo sexo
- (Portuguese) Segunda-feira já vai ser possível celebrar casamentos entre pessoas do mesmo sexo
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- Lawmakers In Portugal Legalize Gay Marriage
- Portugal lesbian couple in nation's first gay marriage
- Lesbian couple Teresa Pires and Helena Paixao wed in Portugal
- Gay rights: Lawmakers defeat adoption bill for couples
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- (Portuguese) Despacho 87/2010