Today is a day to celebrate, for those of us who support liberal values and believe in equality. Last December the Portuguese parliament approved a law on same-sex civil marriage, making it legal by removing the provision on the law which stated that marriage was restricted to heterosexual unions. This was a great victory, but an important battle still lied ahead: the conservative President of the Republic, Anibal Cavaco Silva was against it, and around him rallied the most reactionary sectors of Portuguese society.
They failed, however, to mobilize the population, who remained either unsympathetic or indifferent to their ‘sacred cause’ for the defence of the traditional family values. As regards the President, he sent the law to the Constitutional Court, which then stated that it was in accordance with the constitution. A political veto by the President was, however, still possible, as in Portugal the president’s powers are wider than in most of other european republics.
Tonight the President announced on a declaration broadcast live to the country, that he has decided to promulgate the law. In his statement it’s clear that he is a defeated man. He laments the fact that a softer solution has not been chosen such as the one of creating another institution similar to marriage, as exists in states like the United Kingdom, and regretted that Portugal is one now among 7 countries in the world to have a law which gender abolishes discrimination in a legal institution.
Well, for me, I have good reason to be happy because Portugal has now a law of civil marriage that does not discriminate between men and women, which allows same sex couples to be legally recognized as having the same dignity as different-sex marriages.
In a moment when Portugal is on the world news because of the state of its finances, and increasingly pointed as the next in line after the Greek crisis, it is great to have, for once, happy news about my country.
The approval of this law makes me proud of being a Portuguese citizen. As I have written in another post (about the cancellation of the gay parade in Belgrade last September), the way the gay and lesbian minority is treated, both by the state and by society, reveals not only the level of tolerance, but above all, an important shift in mentalities in which differences no longer bother ‘normal’ people. The evolution of the Portuguse society, in this regard, should be considered spectacular. Of course there is still widespread homophbia, and other forms of prejudice, but those will be more effectively fought now that we have this law. The fact that, unlike in Spain, the Catholic Church decided not to give active support to those opposing this law, and the fact that, unlike in Spain, the population did not respond to calls for the so-called defence of traditional family values, makes me even prouder of being a Portuguese. The difference in the way Spain dealt with a similar law tells a lot about the differences between both Iberian countries, but the way Portugal followed the steps of our Iberian brothers is a good reminder also of how much we have in common. Without the Spanish example, the efforts of those who fought for same-sex marriage in Portugal would probably not bear fruits so soon.
This is also the beauty of liberal ideas, they spread easily, as soon as we are bold enough to nurture them.