SAME SEX marriages would be a “perfectly logical step forward”, concluded a conference on gay rights and gay marriage, held last weekend in Lisbon by gay rights group, International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA), and the Instituto Superior de Ciências do Trabalho e da Empresa (ISCTE), which said that such civil rights should be guaranteed in the Republic’s Constitution.
The two day event, which included panels of sociologists, anthropologists, human rights activists and social science academics, came under fierce fire from the Roman Catholic authorities in Portugal.
In July 2003, the Vatican launched a worldwide campaign against the legalisation of same sex marriages and called on Catholic politicians to lobby against legalising such unions. The official document, prepared by the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope), was approved by Pope John Paul II and stated that legally recognising homosexual unions showed not only “the approval of unnatural behaviour, but translated it into an acceptable model for modern society to follow, risking damaging fundamental human values”.
ILGA’s Paulo Corte Real, who chaired the panels, said: “The arguments that this subject isn’t urgent or only affects a small number of persons aren’t valid because democracy isn’t a dictatorship of minorities.”
Miguel Vale de Almeida, a member of the Centro de Estudos de Antropologia Social (CEAS), the centre for social anthropological studies, added: “Marriage for gay couples should have the same significance as the vote had for women. These rights are pivotal in terms of civil equal rights.”
“There have been surveys which demonstrate that people are more ready to accept this than reject it,” said the sociologist. He recalled that the Constitution itself prohibited discrimination between people because of their sexual and racial orientation and that marriage between gays had no implication at all on the civil liberties of others.
ILGA President, Manuel Cabral Morais, added that if people paid their dues to society in terms of the law and taxes, then they should have the same rights.