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Portugal's Parliament Approves Same-Sex Marriage Law

Portugal's Parliament Approves Same-Sex Marriage Law

Portugal's parliament on Friday approved a law that legalizes same-sex marriages in the country, but does not give gay couples the right to adopt children.

The bill provides gay marriages with the same rights as heterosexual marriages, except the right to adopt children. The measure extends the rights on taxes, inheritance and housing to gay marriages, just like those currently enjoyed by married heterosexual couples.

The law was opposed by Rightist parties, who had demanded a national referendum on the issue after collecting a petition signed by over 90,000 people. Their demand, however, was rejected.

"It is a small change in the law, but a very important and symbolic step to fully realize values that are pillars of open, tolerant and democratic societies; freedom, equality and non-discrimination," Prime Minister Jose Socrates said in his address to the parliament ahead of the vote.

Despite the opposition of the Rightist parties, the measure was approved on Friday in the Portugal's parliament with the support of Prime Minister Jose Socrates's Socialist Party and other allied leftist parties.

The measure will now be reviewed in committee before coming back to the parliament for a final vote. It is expected to gain the final approval before Pope Benedict XVI, who opposes gay marriage, visits Portugal in May.

The adoption of law legalizing gay marriages would mark another forward step towards modernization by Portugal, a predominantly Catholic country, following the legalization of abortion in 2007 despite strong objections from the Catholic Church.

If the measure gets signed into law by President Anibal Cavaco Silva, it would make Portugal the sixth country in Europe to allow same-sex marriages. While Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Norway have already legalized same-sex marriages, several other European countries like Britain, France and Germany permit same sex civil partnerships.

by RTT Staff Writer

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