Portugal’s parliament Friday approved plans to legalize gay marriage, less than three decades after revoking the country’s ban on homosexuality, but rejected proposals to allow same sex couples to adopt.
The bill passed with limited public controversy in what has traditionally been one of Europe’s most socially conservative countries.
After less than three hours’ debate, Friday’s parliamentary vote went mainly along party lines, with the left-wing majority backing the measure proposed by Prime Minister Jose Socrates and the right-wing opposition voting against.
It will now be reviewed in committee before coming back for a final vote in parliament, and could gain final approval before a visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Portugal in May.
Socrates said the aim of the legislation was to remedy decades of injustice towards gays, recalling that as recently as 1982 homosexuality was a crime in Portugal.
The bill gives gay marriages the same rights as heterosexual marriages, including those on taxes, inheritance and housing, but does not offer them the right to adopt children.
If the bill is passed at the second vote, it will fall to President Anibal Cavaco Silva, a practicing Roman Catholic and member of the main right-wing party, to sign it into law.
If he approves it, Portugal will join Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, South Africa and Canada in allowing gay marriages, all of which allow gay married couples to adopt children as well.
So far the president has refused to comment on the question of gay marriage.