LGBT rights in Portugal

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LGBT rights in Portugal
Location of  Portugal  (dark green)– in Europe  (light green & dark grey)– in the European Union  (light green)  –  [Legend]
Location of  Portugal  (dark green)

– in Europe  (light green & dark grey)
– in the European Union  (light green)  –  [Legend]

Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1982;
Age of consent equalized in 2007
Military service Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation and gender identity protections (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of
Unregistered cohabitation since 2001,[1]
Same-sex marriage since 2010
Adoption No

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Portugal have improved substantially in the past decade and are now among the best in the world. After a long period of oppression during the Salazar dictatorship, Portuguese society has become increasingly accepting of homosexuality,[2] which was decriminalized in 1982,[3] eight years after the Carnation Revolution. Portugal has wide-ranging anti-discrimination laws and is one of the few countries in the world to contain a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation in its Constitution. Since 5 June 2010, the state became the eighth in the world to recognize same-sex marriage, even though any couple of the same sex are not able to jointly adopt – but they may adopt as individuals.[4][5][6][7] On 1 March 2011 the President ratified the Law of Gender Identity, said to be the most advanced in the world, which simplifies the process of sex and name change for transgender people.[8][9]

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity was first decriminalised in 1852, but it was made a crime again in 1886, and Portugal gradually became more oppressive of homosexuals until and throughout the dictatorship years.[10] It wasn't until 1982 that same-sex sexual activity was decriminalised again, and the age of consent was equalized with different-sex activity at 14 years of age in 2007.

Gender identity/expression[edit]

Discrimination based on gender expression is illegal by the Portuguese law. Formal approval of sex reassignment is recognised.

On 19 January, 2015, the Portuguese Parliament voted for the inclusion of gender identity as a protected ground of discrimination in the field of employment. Gender identity will now be added to sexual orientation and several other grounds in the non-discrimination clauses of the Portuguese Labour Code.[11]

Discrimination protections and hate crimes laws[edit]

In 2003, laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment came into effect concerning three particular measures: access to work and employment, protection against discrimination in work and against sexual harassment.[12] Since 2004, the Constitution prohibits any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation, making Portugal one of the only countries in the world to enshrine a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation in its constitution.[12][13] A new Penal Code in 2007 came in force which strengthened the anti-discrimination legislation much further, containing several provisions that relate to sexual orientation in three aspects: recognition of same-sex relationships through protection in the same means as to different-sex relationships, such as against domestic violence and murder; equal age of consent between same-sex and different-sex relationships; and sexual orientation being considered an aggravating circumstance relating to homicide, thus, organizing, supporting or encouraging discrimination and violence towards persons or groups based on sexual orientation (like other discriminations such as race and religious beliefs) is criminalized.[14]

In 2013, the Portugal Parliament passed a law that adds "gender identity" to the hate crimes provision in the Penal Code - that already includes "sexual orientation" since 2007.[15]

In 2015, the Portuguese Parliament unanimously approved a measure to formally adopt 17 May as the 'National Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia’. In doing so, the Parliament committed to “engage in fulfilling national and international commitments to combat homophobic and transphobic discrimination". [16]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Portugal has recognized unregistered cohabitation since 5 May 2001, and same-sex marriage since 5 June 2010.[17] Same-sex marriage was legalized under the second term of the Socrates Socialist Government, and passed the Portuguese Parliament with the support of other leftist parties. Same-sex married couples are granted all of the rights of different-sex married couples, except the right to jointly adopt children and to have access to IVF. The Penal Code was amended in 2007 to equalize the age of consent and to criminalize domestic violence in same-sex relationships, thus equalising treatment with opposite-sex couples.[14] The bill was fiercely opposed by conservatives.

Adoption and family planning[edit]

See also: LGBT adoption

Although single gays may adopt, co and joint adoption of children is restricted to different-sex couples (regardless if in a de facto relationship or married), same-sex couples are also informally forbidden of receiving children in a refuge family or of any legal kind, although there have been several court rulings sending children to live with same-sex family couples. Besides this, IVF is also currently not available for both single women and lesbian couples, as well as surrogacy pregnancy, which is not allowed in the country. Parenthood is the only area of Portuguese legislation which continues to discriminate against same-sex couples.

In the past, Portugal has been forced to pay a fine due to homophobic statements from a court that ruled against a gay father's right for his daughter's custody. The European Court of Human Rights received the case and ruled in favor of the father in 1999, demanding the custody back to him and issuing a penalty for the country. In March 2011 the President ratified the new Law of Gender Identity, which, among other things, does not impose sterility for transsexuals, thus recognizing biological LGBT parenting, concerning cases of lesbian or bisexual transwomen who keep their semen before therapy and surgery to be able to later conceive with their spouses, creating a perfectly legal and recognized case of children with biological same-sex parents. This will certainly open discussion for the legal contemplation of other LGBT parenting rights.

On 17 May 2013, the Portugal Parliament approved the bill to recognise some adoption rights for same-sex couples in the first reading.[18][19][20] There isn't scheduled a second vote and a referendum on the issue has been brought in discussion on Parliament.

A bill granting adoption rights to homosexual couples, as well as in-vitro fertilisation for lesbian couples, was introduced in Parliament by the current opposition Socialist and Left Block parties on 16 January 2015.[21] On 22 January, Parliament once again rejected the proposals.[22]

Living conditions[edit]

Gay Pride in Lisbon

Although there are several cases of public prejudice against LGBT people, there is a dynamic gay scene in Lisbon,[2] Porto and in the main touristic cities in the Algarve[2] region, like Faro, Lagos, Albufeira and Tavira, with gay bars, pubs, nightclubs and beaches (in the Algarve). Other smaller cities and regions such as Aveiro, Leiria, Coimbra, Braga, Évora and Madeira have more discreet gay communities, not very visible to the public eye. In Lisbon, most LGBT-oriented businesses are grouped around the bohemian Bairro Alto[23] and the adjacent Príncipe Real[23] and Chiado neighbourhoods.[24][25] In both Lisbon and Porto there are also annual Gay Pride Parades that attract thousands of participants and spectators. Lisbon is also host to one of the largest LGBT film festivals in Europe – Queer Lisboa – the Lisbon Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. Some Portuguese beaches are popular among LGBT population, like 19 Beach, near Costa da Caparica, and Barril Naturist Beach (an official naturist beach) or Cacela Velha beach, both of them near Tavira.[24][26]

Public opinion[edit]

A Eurobarometer survey published in late 2006 showed that only 30% of Portuguese surveyed support same-sex marriage and 20% recognise same-sex couple's right to adopt (EU-wide average 44% and 33%).[27]

Opinions on same-sex marriage have considerably changed in 2009 with the discussion of the same-sex marriage bill. A survey by the Universidade Catolica reveals that 42% of the inquired citizens were in favour of same-sex marriage and another recent survey by Eurosondagem, Radio Renascenca, SIC TV, and the Expresso newspaper stated that about 52% of the Portuguese are in favour of same sex marriages.[28][29] Most recently, an Angus Reid poll on 11 January 2010, showed that 45.5% of those polled were in support of same-sex marriage, but this was less than the 49.3% that opposed.

Views on adoption had not been changed significantly at the time same-sex marriage was passed into law: only 21.7% favor adoption while 68.4% oppose allowing gay couples to adopt.[30] However, during the debate on the on the parliament's initiative to legalize joint-adoption for same sex-couples, polls showed the majority of the population supported both joint-adoption and full adoption rights [31]

Summary table[edit]

Unofficial flag of the Portuguese LGBT community
Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (From 1852 to 1886; and since 1982)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 2007)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment Yes (Since 2003)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas Yes (Since 2004)
Both homophobia and transphobia criminalised (hate/speech crimes) Yes (Since 2007 for homophobia and since 2013 for transphobia)
Same-sex marriage Yes (Since 2010)
Recognition of same-sex unions Yes (Since 2001)
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays allowed to serve in the military Yes (Since 1999)[32]
Formal approval of sex reassignment (counseling, therapy and surgery) Yes (Since 2011)
Right to change legal gender Yes (Since 2011)[33]
Access to IVF for lesbians and single women No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No (Banned for heterosexual couples also)
Recognition of sexual orientation and gender identity for asylum request No
MSMs allowed to donate blood Yes (Since 2010)[34][35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ International: Global Summary of Registered Partnership, Domestic Partnership, and Marriage Laws, stand as of November 2003, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission
  2. ^ a b c Mark Ellingham, John Fisher, Graham Kenyon: The rough guide to Portugal, Rough Guides, 2002, ISBN 9781858288772, p. 49.
  3. ^ (Portuguese)
  4. ^ (Portuguese) Lei n.° 9/2010 de 31 de Maio Permite o casamento civil entre pessoas do mesmo sexo
  5. ^ (Portuguese) Segunda-feira já vai ser possível celebrar casamentos entre pessoas do mesmo sexo
  6. ^ Portugal becomes the sixth country in Europe to legalise gay marriage, Kate Loveys, Daily Mail, 18 May 2010
  7. ^ Portugal's president to ratify same-sex marriage law, BBC News, 17 May 2010
  8. ^ (Portuguese) Statement of the Presidency of the Republic on the bill referring to sex change in civil registries
  9. ^ Cavaco Silva ratifies the bill referring to sex change in civil registries
  10. ^ (Portuguese) O Estado Novo dizia que não havia homossexuais, mas perseguia-os
  11. ^ ILGA-Europe
  12. ^ a b (Portuguese) Homossexualidade é crime em 75 países
  13. ^ (Portuguese) Constituição da república Portuguesa
  14. ^ a b (Portuguese) Vigésima terceira alteração ao Código Penal, Alterações Lei N° 59/2007 de 4 de Setembro
  15. ^ [1]
  16. ^ [2]
  17. ^ Portugal's president ratifies gay marriage law, Business Week, Barry Hatton
  18. ^ [3]
  19. ^ [4]
  20. ^ Portugal Expands Adoption Rights for Gay Couples, ABC News, The Associated Press, 17 May 2013
  21. ^ Portugal: Opposition Party To Table Same-Sex Adoption Bill
  22. ^ Portuguese parliament votes against gay couples adopting
  23. ^ a b David J. J. Evans: Cadogan Guides Portugal, New Holland Publishers, 2004, p. 56., ISBN 9781860111266
  24. ^ a b Lisbon Gay Travel Guide & Map – Bars, Clubs, Hotels
  25. ^ (Portuguese) O que é que o Chiado tem?
  26. ^ The natural delights of Faro
  27. ^ Eight EU Countries Back Same-Sex Marriage
  28. ^ (Portuguese) Somos uma sociedade homofóbica?
  29. ^ Portuguese support same-sex marriage, by a smidge
  30. ^ Portuguese Split on Same-Sex Marriage
  31. ^
  32. ^ LGBT World legal wrap up survey
  33. ^ (Portuguese) Comunicado na Presidência da República sobre o diploma relativo ao procedimento de mudança de sexo no registo civil
  34. ^ (Portuguese) Aprovado diploma para permitir que homossexuais possam dar sangue
  35. ^ (Portuguese) AR aprova diploma que permite a homossexuais dar sangue