Portugal: Debate over Homosexual Marriage
The socialist government of Jose Socrates, elected this past September, took the commitment of quickly decriminalize homosexual marriage. Contrary to the issued of the decriminalization of abortion which had demanded two referendums – the first, in 1998, saw the victory of the “no” before the “yes” carried the victory in 2007 – Jose Socrates has excluded the organization of a consultation of the people claimed for by part of the right-wing, and of the Catholic Socialists.
“As there was a referendum for the voluntary interruption of pregnancy, there should also be one for homosexual marriage, Fr. Manuel Marujao, spokesman for the Portuguese Bishops’ Conference, declared on November 4. This referendum would allow a “clarifying debate.” “You do not decide behind the people’s back without a previous clarification within the public opinion,” he stressed to Lusa agency. Bishop Manuel Clemente, of Porto declared that the referendum was “a perfectly admissible possibility.”
The Portuguese Socialist party responded to the demands of the Church by the intermediary of member of Parliament Francisco Assis, head of his parliamentary group. According to him, a consultation by referendum would “make no sense.” “The parliament is endowed with all the legitimacy necessary to deal with the issue, and it will do so soon,” he stated. Yet, Catholic socialist militants appealed to the Prime Minister to show “personal and political courage to organize a national referendum over the issue.”
On November 11, when opening the work of the plenary assembly of the Bishops of Portugal, Archbishop Jorge Ortiga, president of the Bishop’s Conference and Archbishop of Braga, warned against the ideological campaign of which the family was today the victim. He rose especially against certain “concepts of equality tending to consider as insignificant the natural difference between man and woman, and proposing a uniformity for all individuals, as if there were no sexual difference between persons. Consequently, this would lead, and inevitably so, to consider sexual behavior and tendencies on an equivalent basis.”
Thus we think that “every individual has the right to concretize freely, or even in many cases, to modify his own choices on the basis of his preferences, his desires, and his inclinations. Homosexual unions claim to enjoy a status identical to that of the family.” The role of the Church, Mgr Ortiga stated, will always be to “propose and defend human dignity, regardless of the ideology of individuals, and uniting both respect and courage.” (DICI n° 206- 12/17/2009- Sources: apic/afp/imedia)