Portugal May Be Next in Line for Gay Marriage

by Steve Weinstein

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Sunday February 1, 2009

The leader of Portugal's ruling Socialist Party, Jose Socrates, has announced that he support gay marriage. According to Life Site News, a conservative religious "news" site, the announcements has set off a firestorm in the country, which remains fairly conservative and with a majority of practicing Roman Catholics, despite electing a socialist party.

"This is the moment for the PS, in its national congress, to affirm its desire to propose to Portuguese society the right to civil marriage for people of the same sex," Socrates told a rally. "As far as I know, after doing this in our country, we won't be the last to do so. I also want to say that the values that inspire us when we propose this change to the Portuguese people are the values that have always been in the heart of the PS."

"Homosexual marriages are complicated questions of conscience," said Mario Soares, the former president of Portugal and a founder of the Socialist Party, in response to Socrates' comments. "But there are certain radicals who want to move forward [with it] to show that they are leftist." Soares implied that the government should be concentrating on the problems that deal with "work, workers and unions."

"In my opinion and the opinion of young socialists, [Mario Soares] is deceived," countered Socialist Youth leader Duarte Cordeiro. "It's a fundamental issue for the left and I don't think it is radicalism."

Perhaps not altogether unexpectedly the church didn't waste any time reacting to the call. The secretary of the Catholic Episcopal Conference of Portugal, P. Manuel Morujao, however, somewhat surprisingly objected only weakly to the proposal.

The Catholic cleric and leader even advocated that gay unions be legalized as they are in Britain, but without the name "marriage" attached to them. "Our structural identity is a value to cultivate," wrote Morujao. "Identity is not question of choice. I am not a man or a women by choice. I am also my body and with it I must deepen my psychological, affective, and relational identity. It seems to me a serious anthropological error to equalize a homosexual union with marriage and family."

He approvingly cited Britain's "legal framework for a stable union between two people of the same sex, with certain rights, for example at the level of taxes and inheritance. Do all of that," he added, "but without giving the name and the status of 'marriage' and 'family.'"

Life Site News reported that Morujao's response was "less than satisfying to Portugal's many Catholics."

"The teaching of the Catholic Church officially condemns homosexual sexual relations as intrinsically evil, and homosexual attraction as an intrinsic disorder," according to the site. Maybe so, but apparently the Portuguese church is thinking a bit differently these days.

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).