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Cablegate: Portuguese Parliament Passes Same-Sex Marriage Bill

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ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 111618Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY LISBON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8053
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

UNCLAS LISBON 000015

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SOCI PO
SUBJECT: PORTUGUESE PARLIAMENT PASSES SAME-SEX MARRIAGE BILL

REF: LISBON 5

1. As anticipated (reftel), on January 8, the Portuguese
Parliament passed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage while
rejecting proposals to allow adoption by same-sex couples and
a petition for a public referendum on the issue. The
Socialist-sponsored bill was approved after a three-hour
debate with the support of three leftist parties, with 123
deputies voting in favor, 94 against, and seven members of
the center-right Social Democratic Party (PSD) abstaining.
While Socrates and his government expressed optimism that the
final version of the bill would be approved by the end of
January, the opposition argued that the bill is
discriminatory and violates the Constitution. The far-left
Left Bloc supported the bill but accused the government of
creating a "legal imbroglio" by allowing same-sex marriage
while prohibiting same-sex adoption.

2. Media Reaction: The long-awaited legislative measure
received extensive coverage in both local and international
media. Under headlines such as "One Country, Two Marriages,"
"The Left Highlights 'Historic Day' in Parliament," "The
Opposition Gives Space to Cavaco to Block Gay Marriage," and
"Proposal of the Socialist Party is Discriminatory," local
press echoed the sentiments of a heavily Roman Catholic
country in transition to a more tolerant liberalism. It also
reflected the opinion of many that the bill, although
groundbreaking, did not go far enough to allow same-sex
adoption. Portuguese media noted the reactions of the
far-left Left Bloc and the opposition center-right PSD and
conservative Popular Party, which argued against the
Socialist-sponsored bill on constitutional grounds. They
also highlighted the reservations of conservative President
Cavaco Silva and his options for rejecting the bill if
approved by the plenary.

3. Public Reaction: Gay rights activists celebrated it as a
historic moment, while the Archbishop of Lisbon warned that
same-sex marriage would change the traditional concept of
family, which "could have grave consequences for the future."
Members of the conservative pro-family movement that
collected over 90,000 signatures to petition for a referendum
on the issue expressed disappointment over the rejection of
their petition, describing the moment as "a black day for
Portuguese society" and a "demonstration of the deputies'
despotic power." Many retail stores welcomed the news,
seeing same-sex marriage as a business opportunity -- a way
of boosting an economy in crisis. Independent Deputy Miguel
Vale de Almeida, the first openly gay member of Parliament,
rejoiced in the victory, hailing it as an important step in
raising awareness against homophobia, but said he would
continue to fight for the right of adoption by same-sex
couples.

4. Next Steps: The bill will now be reviewed in committee
before returning to the floor for a final vote in Parliament.
If passed, the bill will then go to the President, who has
three options: he can sign it into law, veto it, or refer it
to the Constitutional Court if he has concerns about its
constitutionality. It is not likely that he will veto the
measure as it can be overturned in Parliament by a simple
majority. If the bill is signed into law by the President,
it could go into effect in April, just a month before the
Pope's visit to Portugal. If approved, Portugal would become
the sixth European country to legalize same-sex marriage.


For more reporting from Embassy Lisbon and information about Portugal,
please see our Intelink site:

http://www.intelink.sgov.gov/wiki/portal:port ugal
BALLARD

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