By Chris Graeme [email protected]
Support for a referendum on the controversial issue of gay civil marriages is gaining momentum among various political, religious and social groups in Portugal.
The government aims to “get rid of the legal barriers” to same-sex marriages and has included the policy, which formed part of its electoral programme, for debate in parliament.
But it is likely that the issue will be put to a referendum during Jose Sócrates’s second term in office.
A former leader of the CDS-PP party, José Ribeiro e Castro, has already publicly argued for parliamentary and popular consultation over the issue.
“I am against the legalisation of marriages between people of the same-sex and think this is an issue that doesn’t have political priority, but I will take part in this debate because I believe it isn’t possible for the government, or PS party, to push forward with changes to the law without first consulting the Portuguese people,” he said.
The spokesperson for the Catholic socialists, Cláudio Anaia, challenged José Sócrates “to have the personal and political courage” to hold a referendum.
He said it would be “unacceptable that such an important issue is part of one party’s political strategy and against the will of the vast majority of the people, as has been revealed in various polls”.
A group of 40 associations, many of which were actively involved in the fight against legal abortion, is already planning a public campaign against gay marriages.
“We are already laying down our strategy and, within two weeks, will publish the names of those in the forefront of the movement,” said António Pinheiro Torres, who was a prominent anti-abortionist figure during the last referendum.
In Pinheiro Torres’ opinion, the pledge to legalise gay marriages, which is within the government’s electoral programme and is part of a number of policy options already handed into the parliament for debate, does not call into question the call for a referendum.
“Democracy should always be given a voice and the parliament does not have sufficient powers to take such an important decision without a referendum. This is a civil issue and, as such, a voice should be given to the people,” he said.
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