LGBT rights in Portugal

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LGBT rights in Portugal
EU-Portugal with islands circled.svg
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 Yes, since 2016

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 Article 13 of its Constitution. Since 5 June 2010, the state became the eighth in the world to recognize same-sex marriage.[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] Same-sex adoption is allowed since 1 March 2016.[10]

Legality of same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity was first decriminalised in 1852, under Mary II and Ferdinand II, but it was made a crime again in 1886, under Louis I, and Portugal gradually became more oppressive of homosexuals until and throughout the dictatorship years.[11] 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.

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Portugal has recognized unregistered cohabitation since 5 May 2001, and same-sex marriage since 5 June 2010.[12] 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. 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.[13]

Adoption and family planning[edit]

Since 2016, Portuguese law has allowed adoption of children by same-sex couples. Prior to that reform, same-sex couples were barred from adoption rights and 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.

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 favour 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. [14]

On 17 May 2013, Parliament rejected a bill allowing same-sex couples to adopt children, in a 104-77 vote. On the same day, Parliament approved a bill, in its first reading, allowing same-sex married couples to adopt their partner's children (i.e. step-child adoption).[15] However, a bill was rejected in its second reading on 14 March 2014, in a 107-112 vote.[16] Another bills granting adoption rights to same-sex parents and carers, as well as in-vitro fertilisation for lesbian relationships, were introduced in Parliament by the current opposition Socialist and Left Block parties on 16 January 2015.[17] On 22 January, Parliament rejected the proposals.[18]

On 23 September 2015, parties from the Left majority in Parliament submitted bills to grant same-sex couples full adoption rights as well as access to intro-vitro fertilisation.[19][20][21] On 20 November 2015, 5 proposals regarding adoption rights were approved by Parliament in their first readings.[22] The bills were then moved to the Constitutional Affairs, Rights, Freedoms and Guarantees Committee where they were merged into one project and approved on 16 December 2015.[23] On 18 December 2015, the bill was approved by Parliament.[24][25] On 25 January 2016, one day after the presidential election, the outgoing President Aníbal Cavaco Silva vetoed the adoption bill.[26] The Left majority in Parliament announced their intention to override the veto. On 10 February 2016, the veto from outgoing President was overturned by Parliament.[27] The President begrudgingly signed the bill into law on 19 February 2016.[28] It was published in the official journal on 29 February. The law took effect the first day of the first month after its publication (i.e. 1 March 2016).[29]

On 13 May 2016, Parliament adopted a bill to give female same-sex couples access to medically assisted reproduction.[30][31][32] It was signed by the President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa on 7 June.[33][34][35] The law was published in the official journal on 20 June and took effect the first day of the second month after publication (i.e. 1 August 2016).[36][37][38]

In 2016, gestational surrogacy was legalized in Portugal. Discussions on the adoption of the surrogacy law lasted more than 3 years. The first version of the law was adopted on May 13, 2016, but was vetoed by the President, who demanded that the law contained rights and obligations of all participants in the process of surrogacy.[39][40] As a result, the text of the law was updated, and now surrogacy is legal and regulated by law in Portugal. The law was opposed by the Portuguese Catholic Church, whose representatives condemned surrogacy and insisted infertile couples adopt children instead of using surrogacy.

The basic rules of the law on surrogacy:[41]

  • Only couples, where the woman can not carry and give birth to a child for medical reasons can access surrogacy services
  • The woman who agrees to carry and give birth to the child shouldn’t pay for services.
  • The written agreement must be issued between the surrogate mother and the genetic parents. The rights and obligations of the parties as well as their actions in cases of force majeure should be included in it.
  • After the birth, parental rights over the child belong to the genetic parents.

According to the law, the surrogate mother is a woman of childbearing age who agrees to carry and give birth to a child for the genetic parents, and who doesn’t lay claim to be the mother. Traditional surrogacy is illegal in Portugal except for some situations that give the right for a surrogate mother to be the genetic parent. (for example, if the child is raised by a single father or by a same-sex couple)

Discrimination protections and hate crime 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.[42] 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.[42][43] 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.[13]

In 2013, the Portuguese Parliament passed a law that adds "gender identity" to the hate crimes provision in the Penal Code - that already includes "sexual orientation" since 2007.[44]

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".[45]

Gender identity/expression[edit]

Discrimination based on gender expression is illegal in Portugal. Sex reassignment surgery

In March 2011, the President ratified the new Law of Gender Identity, which allows transgender persons to change their legal gender on their birth certificates.[14][46]

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 was added to sexual orientation and several other grounds in the non-discrimination clauses of the Portuguese Labour Code.[47] Additionally, since 2013, hate crimes on the basis of gender identity are outlawed.[44]

On 24 May 2016, the Left Bloc introduced a bill to allow a person aged 16 or more to change his or her legal gender solely based on self-determination. A person under 16 would be able to change gender with parental consent. The bill also gives a possibility of sex reassignment surgery funded by the public health system.[48][49][50]

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[51] and the adjacent Príncipe Real[51] and Chiado neighbourhoods.[52][53] 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.[52][54]

Public opinion[edit]

A Eurobarometer survey published in late 2006 showed that only 29% of Portuguese surveyed support same-sex marriage and 19% recognise same-sex couple's right to adopt (EU-wide average 44% and 33%).[55]

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.[56][57] 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. A Eurobarometer survey published in 2015 showed that support for same sex marriage had risen significantly to 61%.[58]

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 same-sex couples to adopt.[59] However, in 2014, during the debate on Parliament's initiative to legalize step-child adoption for same sex-couples, polls showed the majority of the population supported both step-child adoption and full adoption rights.[60]


Below is the share of respondents in Portugal who agreed with the following statements in the 2015 Special Eurobarometer on discrimination.[61] The last column is the change from the 2006 Eurobarometer where respondents were presented the slightly different statement "Homosexual marriages should be allowed throughout Europe".[62]

Member state "Gay and lesbian people
should have the same rights
as heterosexual people"
"There is nothing wrong
in a sexual relationship between
two persons of the same sex"
"Same sex marriages should be
allowed throughout Europe"
Change from 2006
on last statement
 Portugal 71% 59% 61% +32

Military service[edit]

Portugal allows all citizens to serve openly in the military regardless of sexual orientation, as the Constitution explicitly forbids any discrimination on that basis. Lesbians and gay or bisexual men and women are therefore able to serve in the military on the same basis as heterosexual men and women.[63]

In April 2016, Portugal's armed forces chief General Carlos Jerónimo resigned, days after being summoned to explain comments about gay soldiers made by the deputy head of the military college. President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa accepted the resignation of Jerónimo, who took up the post of chief of staff in 2014. The resignation came after António Grilo, deputy head of the military college, admitted advising parents of young military students in the Portuguese army to withdraw their sons if they were gay "to protect them from the other students". Defence Minister Azeredo Lopes considered any discrimination "absolutely unacceptable".[64]

Asylum recognition[edit]

Since 30 August 2008, sexual orientation and gender identity are recognised as grounds to apply for asylum.[65]

Blood donation[edit]

In 2010, Parliament unanimously approved a Left Bloc petition to allow gay and bisexual men to be allowed to donate blood.[66] The motion was to finally be implemented by the Portuguese Blood Institute in October 2015, and a six month or one year deferral period was to be enacted.[67][68] However, as of August 2016, the motion's implementation is delayed until at least 2017.[69][70]

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)
Hate crime laws include sexual orientation and gender identity Yes (Since 2007 for sexual orientation and since 2013 for gender identity)
Same-sex marriage Yes (Since 2010)
Recognition of same-sex unions Yes (Since 2001)
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2016)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples Yes (Since 2016)
LGB people allowed to serve in the military Yes (Since 1999)
Right to change legal gender Yes (Since 2011)
Sexual orientation/gender identity for asylum recognition Yes (Since 2008)
Access to artificial insemination/IVF for lesbian couples Yes (Since 2016)
Automatic parenthood for both spouses after birth Yes (Since 2016)
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No (Illegal for all couples regardless of sexual orientation)
MSMs allowed to donate blood ? (Pending/Controversial interpretation of existing legislation)

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. ^ Lei n.º 2/2016 de 29 de fevereiro
  11. ^ (Portuguese) O Estado Novo dizia que não havia homossexuais, mas perseguia-os
  12. ^ Portugal's president ratifies gay marriage law, Business Week, Barry Hatton
  13. ^ a b (Portuguese) Vigésima terceira alteração ao Código Penal, Alterações Lei N° 59/2007 de 4 de Setembro
  14. ^ a b Portuguese Gender Identity Law Law No. 7/2011 of 15th March 2010
  15. ^ Portugal Expands Adoption Rights for Gay Couples
  16. ^ (Portuguese) Projeto de Lei 278/XII
  17. ^ Duffy, Nick (11 January 2015). "Portugal: Opposition party to table same-sex adoption bill". Pink News. Retrieved 25 July 2015. 
  18. ^ "Portuguese parliament votes against gay couples adopting". Agence France-Presse. MSN News. 22 January 2015. Retrieved 25 July 2015. 
  19. ^ (Portuguese) Projeto de Lei 5/XIII: Elimina as discriminações no acesso à adoção, apadrinhamento civil e demais relações jurídicas familiares, procedendo à segunda alteração à Lei n.º 7/2001, de 11 de maio, e à primeira alteração à Lei n.º 9/2010, de 31 de maio
  20. ^ (Portuguese) Projeto de Lei 2/XIII: Eliminação da impossibilidade legal de adoção por casais do mesmo sexo. Primeira alteração à Lei n.º 9/2010, de 31 de maio e segunda alteração à Lei n.º 7/2001, de 11 de maio
  21. ^ (Portuguese) Projeto de Lei 6/XIII: Segunda Alteração à Lei n.º 32/2006, de 26 de Junho, alargando o âmbito dos beneficiários das técnicas de Procriação Medicamente Assistida
  22. ^ Portugal Allows Same-Sex Adoption, Artificial Insemination
  23. ^ (Portuguese) Votação na Reunião da Comissão nº. 7 em 2015-12-16
  24. ^ (Portuguese) Votação final: 17 deputados do PSD votaram a favor da adoção plena
  25. ^ (Portuguese) Cavaco decide promulgação da adopção gay e interrupção da gravidez até ao fim de Janeiro
  26. ^ Portugal's outgoing president vetoes gay adoption bill
  27. ^ Reuters: Portugal parliament overturns veto on adoption by gay couples
  28. ^ (Portuguese) "Cavaco promulgou adoção gay e alterações à lei do aborto". TSF Radio Noticias. 19 February 2016. 
  29. ^ (Portuguese) Lei n.º 2/2016 de 29 de fevereiro
  30. ^ (Portuguese) Projeto de Lei 36/XIII
  31. ^ (Portuguese) AR alarga PMA a mais mulheres e aprova gestação de substituição
  32. ^ (Portuguese) Parlamento aprova barrigas de aluguer e Procriação Medicamente Assistida
  33. ^ (Portuguese) O Presidente da República, alertando para a insuficiente protecção dos direitos da criança, promulga alargamento da Procriação Medicamente Assistida
  34. ^ (Portuguese) Marcelo promulga procriação assistida, mas veta gestação de substituição
  35. ^ (Portuguese) Marcelo promulga 35 horas e veta barrigas de aluguer
  36. ^ (Portuguese) Lei 17/2016 de 20 de junho
  37. ^ (Portuguese) Lei que alarga a procriação medicamente assistida publicada em Diário da República
  38. ^ (Portuguese) Todas as mulheres com acesso à PMA a 1 de Agosto
  39. ^ (Portuguese) Parlamento aprova gestação de substituição
  40. ^ Portugese president vetoes surrogacy law
  41. ^ Surrogacy was legalized in Portugal
  42. ^ a b (Portuguese) Homossexualidade é crime em 75 países
  43. ^ (Portuguese) Constituição da república Portuguesa
  44. ^ a b Portugal passes trans hate crime law
  45. ^ Portugal formally adopts national anti-discrimination day with unanimous vote
  46. ^ (Portuguese) Comunicado na Presidência da República sobre o diploma relativo ao procedimento de mudança de sexo no registo civil
  47. ^ ILGA-Europe
  48. ^ (Portuguese) Projeto de Lei 242/XIII
  49. ^ (Portuguese) BE apresenta projecto de lei para permitir mudança de sexo aos 16 anos
  50. ^ (Portuguese) BE quer permitir mudança de sexo aos 16 anos
  51. ^ a b David J. J. Evans: Cadogan Guides Portugal, New Holland Publishers, 2004, p. 56., ISBN 9781860111266
  52. ^ a b Lisbon Gay Travel Guide & Map – Bars, Clubs, Hotels
  53. ^ (Portuguese) O que é que o Chiado tem?
  54. ^ The natural delights of Faro
  55. ^ Eight EU Countries Back Same-Sex Marriage
  56. ^ (Portuguese) Somos uma sociedade homofóbica?
  57. ^ Portuguese support same-sex marriage, by a smidge
  58. ^ Eurobarometer 2015: Same-sex marriage support in the EU
  59. ^ Portuguese Split on Same-Sex Marriage
  60. ^ (Portuguese) Portugueses querem referendo sobre coadoção
  61. ^ "Special Eurobarometer 437: Discrimination in the EU in 2015" (PDF). European Commission. October 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 January 2016. 
  62. ^ "Eurobarometer 66: Public opinion in the European Union" (PDF). European Commission. December 2006. 
  63. ^ LGBT world legal wrap up survey. Archived 10 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  64. ^ Zee News India, Portugal military chief resigns over remark on gay soldiers, 08.04.2016
  65. ^ Rainbow Europe: Portugal
  66. ^ (Portuguese) AR aprova diploma que permite a homossexuais dar sangue
  67. ^ Portugal's gay men allowed to give blood
  68. ^ (Portuguese) Homossexuais vão poder doar sangue
  69. ^ (Portuguese) Gays continuam excluídos das doações de sangue
  70. ^ Portugal's gays still banned from giving blood