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May 21, 2010

Portugal becomes eighth nation with full marriage

with wire reports

Lisbon, Portugal-- President Anibal Cavaco Silva said on May 17 that he will sign the country’s same-sex marriage bill into law, even though he is opposed to it.

The move will make Portugal the sixth European nation with full same-sex marriage, plus Canada and South Africa.

The bill was passed in January by the Portuguese parliament, where it was put forward by the Socialist government and supported by every progressive party. President Cavaco Silva, however, belongs to a right-of-center party, and those parties presented the only opposition to the passage of the law, calling for a national referendum on same-sex marriage.

Cavaco Silva, though, was more sanguine in his approach to the proposed law. He realized that the left-of-center parties had the votes to override his veto should he reject the bill.

“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.

Cavaco Silva asked the nation’s Constitutional Court in March to review the bill’s constitutionality. The court issued an 11-2 ruling confirming that it was, indeed, constitutionally valid, and three of the judges opined that same-sex marriage was mandated by the Portuguese constitution.

Four days before the president announced he would sign the bill, Pope Benedict XVI decried same-sex marriages in a speech given at a shrine in Fátima, Portugal.

Portugal joins Spain and Canada as predominantly Catholic countries that have passed full same-sex marriage laws. In Canada, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien was threatened with excommunication by one of his bishops for his support of same-sex marriage legislation.

The other nations with full marriage are Sweden, Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands. Five U.S. states and the District of Columbia also have it, as does Mexico City.

Iceland is likely to be the next European country to embrace marriage, with a bill expected to make it through the legislature in June.

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