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Gay Marriage Approved in Portugal
by Alexandra Pereira
2010-01-13 07:21:37
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gay_marriage_1Two years after I was born, in 1982, homosexuality was still considered in the Portuguese Civil Code as a crime punishable by law. If I had been born in a home where I had same-sex educators, they would not have been able to adopt me - however good their intentions could have been, however competent as educators they could have been, and for as much as they could have loved me as their daughter.

Portugal is one of the most socially conservative countries in Europe, a situation to which contributed, decade after decade and century after century, the low educational levels of the population and the largely spread (often imposed) conservative Catholic values. More than 50 years of dictatorship, during the 20th century, did not help to improve the situation.

And yet, while the year 2010 brought the possibility of civil marriage for same-sex couples (the gay civil union was already legal), an effusive discussion on the need and urgency to approve the possibility of adoption for same-sex couples goes on... and I can guarantee you that it will not be over until it is, in fact, approved by the parliament. Portugal became the 8th country in the world to allow gay marriage, an amendment to the law that the Prime Minister reasonably considered 'inevitable, because a state can not determine the unhappiness of its citizens nor discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation', adding that 'it will be commonplace throughout the world very soon'.

However, the same prime minister who declared that 'non-discrimination of homosexuals, as well as non-discrimination between genders, races or abortion rights are basic human rights in a democratic and egalitarian society' also said that his party did not go yet for the approval of adoption rights for same-sex couples due to 'democratic modesty' (that is, not to impose too much change at once, or for fear of the conservatives...), raising many eyebrows among those who want full equality, absolute and definitive rights among citizens.

The associations of gay rights and the society in general are not gay_marriage_2_400satisfied with the extent of the law: the right to adoption by gay couples is wanted as an urgent measure against the discrimination, as well as the benefit and interest of many children waiting countless years in institutions for the opportunity to have a family that nurtures and loves them.

The discussion continues while trying to change mentalities: yes, a gay mother or father can be as good as or better models and educators than heterosexual parents; no, the child will not grow up with a trauma; no, the child is not deprived from traditional female and male role models; no, homosexuality is not a disease that can be caught; yes, the child grows as much as or even more tolerant than the children of heterosexual couples; no, homosexuals are not sterile (so God and the nature allow them to have children...); yes, there are many children who would give anything to have a family who loves them rather than grow up abandoned in institutions; yes, the fear of the different is named obscurantism; no, a state has nothing to do with the sexual orientations of its citizens (nor have other citizens) and it can not discriminate on those grounds; yes, sexuality is not static, but evolves over a lifetime; yes, and bisexual people, can they adopt?; no, the child does not grow up 'confused', and so on and so on...

Despite all this, the last Friday was marked by celebrations with champagne and wedding cake for activists, supporters and MP’s on the steps in front of the Portuguese Parliament. Many people smiled and showed a new pride. Sergio Vitorino, a gay former deputy accompanied by his  recent partner, said "marriage is still not in my plans but I want to have the right to choose later anyway’, while adding that "not even the Dutch right-wing says things as discriminatory as the Portuguese right conservatives", shocked in reaction to the debate in the Parliament, before the vote. In fact, the parties which approved the law were accused of things such as ‘shaking the fundamentals and creating a day of mourning for the Portuguese democracy’. This in a country where, we should remember, one of the main right-wing leaders, opponent of gay marriage, is still rememberedgay_marriage_3 for the artistic name of ‘Catherine Deneuve’, a homosexual transvestite luxury prostitute which used to work in one of Lisbon’s main parks. The supporters said, on the other hand, that the approval represented ‘the 25th of April of LGBT’.

Reasons to celebrate had also some very valid members of the Portuguese society, such as the young Literature academician in love with Greece and fantastic translator of the great Homeric poems to Portuguese, Frederico Lourenco, the anthropologist and MP Miguel Vale de Almeida,  Pink Panter association representative Sergio Vitorino, the couple of lesbians who married in front of the Parliament in protest, the filmmaker, screenwriter and producer Raquel Freire and her partner, the plastic artist Ana Vidigal, the first gay couple married in the Portuguese national territory, last December (Ricardo Mealha, graphic designer, and David Rodrigues, PhD in social psychology), as well as hundreds or thousands of anonymous couples, many of them already living with children, or who planned families and parenthood or motherhood was part of that plan. If a mother or a father dies, these children have no right to see the parenthood/motherhood of the other member of the couple recognized. And this must be solved urgently.




Photos: AFP, JN

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Emanuel Paparella2010-01-13 10:42:24
“Portugal is one of the most socially conservative countries in Europe, a situation to which contributed, decade after decade and century after century, the low educational levels of the population and the largely spread (often imposed) conservative Catholic values.”

The above statement is quite intriguing in the direct link that it cavalierly assumes between conservatism and low educational levels of a population. The formula seems to be this: conservative = ignoramus and anti-progress and anti-politically correct to boot. Which of course will have the conservatives protesting the gratuitousness of the assumption. It would be the same if one were to make the contrary assumption: liberal = ignoramus. That link would have also have all the liberals incensed and angry. No great surprises there: those reactions are usually called, and correctly so, knee-jerk reactions. And of course what can be easily and gratuitously asserted, on both sides of the divide, can be easily rebutted and even ignored.

But what stands out even more glaringly in the above statement is the link between the low educational level of a whole population and “conservative” (again gratuitously assumed to be such) Catholic values, “often imposed.” Never mind intellectual giants such as St. Augustine, a St. Thomas Aquinas, a Theilard de Chardin, who, at least in their times, were considered at the cutting edge of knowledge opening up new intellectual vistas. They too would probably be branded as ignoremuses simply for being Catholic and of course, ipso facto, conservatives and anti-progressives, revealing thereby more about the intellectual level and the sheer bias of the accuser grinding an old ax or an old grudge than that of the accused. (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2010-01-13 10:44:44
But let us not stay with generalizations and look a bit more closely at the issue in question in the above article. Contrary to what it attempts to imply, the Catholic Church has not mobilized as an institution against a law that, according to none other than Lisbon’s Cardinal Patriarch Jose Policarpo is “parliament’s responsibility.” This may surprise the liberal activist who expected an ignoramus’s rebuttal from the Catholic Church, but it is quite logical as per the same theological principles of the same Church. For civil marriage is not recognized by the church – only sacramental marriage. Therefore in the eyes of the church, a couple who have joined in civil marriage whether or not they are gay or heterosexual, gender-indeterminate, or a-sexual, or even inter-species (yes, there are those who are now claiming the right to marry one’s dog if they so wish…) are technically “cohabiting”, not married. All civil marriages should therefore be treated equally by the church. As it has not resisted the opposite-sex variety, then to be consistent, it should likewise not oppose the same sex-variety – unless it wishes to confirm that its motivation is based in sheer bigotry. Cardinal Policarpo has it on target. It is the dictionary definition of what constitutes a marriage within the Church and outside the Churhc that is at issue. (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2010-01-13 10:45:21
One thing can be granted to the above statement and it is this. As Nietzsche put; the only Christian died on the cross some two thousand years ago. The so called “Christians” of Europe were often co-opted into Christianity by their king converting to it for political reasons. It was as easy as sprinkling some water on one’s head and voilà the pagan was now a Christian. Not really, he usually continued in his good old own pagan ways, not excluding human sacrifices and the erroneous belief that one had to kill the body to save the soul. Slowly bur surely a whole continent is now returning to those good old ways.

ap2010-01-13 14:53:50
The above statement is quite intriguing in the direct link that it cavalierly assumes between conservatism and low educational levels of a population.
Nothing intriguing there for me.

ap2010-01-13 15:02:05
Of course, it depends on HOW you educate them. If you teach them creacionism, for instance... I'm afraid they won't be the most liberal souls on earth.

ap2010-01-13 15:11:43
If you read it closely, no word was written about the role played by the Catholic church for/against this law. Of course, many Christian groups were against it, but not only Christian groups. And the best argument against their pretensions was: 'this is not a Catholic marriage, so it is not your business!'.
Funny though that you mention Dom Jose Policarpo, a person who said in the past the most discriminatory things against homosexuals and just gave an interview to a Catholic magazine last week stating that he was AGAINST the law approved and that, after that, we need a profound civilizational change. Curiously, Vale de Almeida described in the same way 'civilizational change' the step given by the parliament, when the law was approved.

ap2010-01-13 15:31:25
'But what stands out even more glaringly in the above statement is the link between the low educational level of a whole population and “conservative” (again gratuitously assumed to be such) Catholic values, “often imposed.”'
Actually I related conservative Catholic values (and low educational levels) with a conservative society, not conservative Catholic values with low educational levels. And if you can't see the link, maybe that's because you weren't born and raised in a profoundly conservative and Catholic society, but are retired and eating ice cream in Palm Beach Florida. Of course from there, and from your religiously engaged position, the whole world must look pink. Otherwise...

ap2010-01-13 15:41:12
You know, all these people with their pictures in the box above, they have my DEEPEST respect, because they have shown, for years and years, to be SO courageous/brave in a profoundly repressive environment, conservative and uneducated for human diversity. They managed to give everybody a deep lesson against homophobia (Policarpo included), but I am sure that there are further lessons coming from them very soon... and that, yes, that makes me have hope. Not the dominant stupidity and conservative cowardice.

Thanos2010-01-13 16:32:10
Having been in two civil unions with close friends I have to say that I’m really proud for them and for their act of commitment. Oddly I know that they are far more committed to their union than other “straight” couples. But this is a different conversation.

However with one of those couples I was deeply sadden with the fact that they are both deeply religious but the church didn’t want to do a service despite the fact – at least for me – they are more Christians than any other Christians (not to say better Christians than most) I have met all my life. However lucky them there are some members of the Finnish protestant church that give their blessing.

In Finland there was little reaction (except the usual suspects) over the issue and now there is a talk about adopting children which I think it will be really good for these people since it is better to do it openly than using other ways including “white” marriages.

ap2010-01-13 16:48:17
Worst: having to get a divorce so they can adopt (ridiculous)!
ps. Quintanilha is a Scientist and Professor (although the partner of American Literature Prof and Novelist Richard Zimler)

ap2010-01-13 17:58:16
And yes, Thanos: many of them are far more committed to their union than other “straight” couples. That's (one of) the hypocrisies. You can hear even cheating husbands and wives being arrogant, prejudiced and considering homosexuality as some sort of disease. How about dishonesty, ignorance and anachronisms, are they a disease?
It is a mistake to think that a law is what going to stop these people from living their lives the way they want and know they have the right to live it. Some of these people have as many as 4 children, they take care, nurture and educate them together with their partner. If a state does not recognize this, what is a state for?

ap2010-01-13 20:37:05
Reuters - 'Pope Says Gay Marriage Threat to Creation' (Jan 11, 2010!!)

let me guess... Reuters 'misinterpreted it' (once again, right?)!
I say this Pope is a threat to creation and should not be able to go to Portugal in May!!

ap2010-01-13 21:44:05
About your comparisons with the marriage with dogs etc., they will deserve absolutely NO comment from me. Because they don't.

Joana Manuel2010-01-15 19:59:27
just a small correction. I'm the one who married Raquel in front of the parliament, and it was a protest performance. for what it's worth, I'm not a lesbian, although it wouldn't bother me a bit that anyone would think so. I just feel it's important to show that this isn't an lgbt struggle, but one that concerns each and every citizen, regardless of one's sexual paths.

great post. :)

ap2010-01-16 04:47:13
You're very right about that. But another couple (real partners) got married in protest over there (2003, I believe). That's who I mentioned. Kind greetings.

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