By Patrick B. Craine

LISBON, Portugal, December 18, 2009 ( – Portugal's Socialist government will seek to legalize same-sex “marriage,” they announced yesterday.

At a news conference, Cabinet Minister Pedro Silva Pereira said the government will be putting forward a new bill that would strike current references to marriage as being between a man and a woman from Portuguese law.  The proposal, he said, will likely be presented for debate in the Assembly of the Republic, the country's sole legislative chamber, in January.

While same-sex “marriage” is opposed by the opposition Social Democratic Party and other right-leaning parties, the Associated Press reports that the bill is “almost certain” to pass because the government is backed by all left-leaning parties, which form a majority in Parliament.

If passed, the bill must then be approved by President Anibal Cavaco Silva, who has the power of veto.  While it has been reported that Silva opposes same-sex “marriage,” he also supposedly opposes abortion, even though he approved the liberalization of Portugal's abortion law in 2007.  Should he veto, Parliament could potentially override his decision.

The true definition of marriage was upheld in July by Portugal's Constitutional Court, which ruled 3-2 against two homosexual women seeking to challenge the law.  They made their challenge on the grounds that Portugal's constitution forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation.  The court responded, however, that the constitution does not state that same-sex “marriage” must be allowed.

The government's move follows a January announcement from Prime Minister Jose Socrates that he would seek to legalize same-sex “marriage.”  His comments provoked a strong reaction from the largely Catholic country, even from members within his own party.

“This is the moment for the PS, in its national congress, to affirm its desire to propose to Portuguese society the right to civil marriage for people of the same sex,” he said.

Mario Soares, a founder of the Socialist Party and former Portuguese President, came out publicly against Socrates, saying that “homosexual marriages are complicated questions of conscience … but there are certain radicals who want to move forward [with it] to show that they are leftist.”

The Catholic bishops of Portugal responded to Socrates' comments by declaring their commitment to fight the attempted redefinition of marriage.  Same-sex “marriage,” said spokesman Fr. Manuel Morujao, “is an offense against marriage that is, by its nature, heterosexual.”  The movement to create “homosexual marriage,” he continued, is a “threat” to Portuguese society and is moving along “an erroneous path.”

“What are we going to say to the generations coming after us?” he asked.  “That they can be whatever they want?  That they can choose whatever they want to be from a menu of identities?”

See related coverage:

Portuguese Constitutional Court Upholds Traditional Marriage

Leader of Portuguese Ruling Party Seeks to Create Homosexual “Marriage” in Portugal

Portuguese Bishops Resolve to Fight “Homosexual Marriage” Proposal by Socialist Prime Minister

Portugal Legalizes Abortion as President Silva Approves Legislation