If Portugal Will Let Gays Get Married, Why Won’t It Let Them Adopt Kids?

Before you start fist-bumping the air over the expected news that Portugal’s lawmakers have voted to grant marriage rights to gays (a promise that Prime Minister José Sócrates, pictured, and the Socialist party promised to carry out if re-elected), it’s worth noting those same lawmakers refused to grant adoption rights to those same gay couples. So, uh, YEA!, but also, WTF?

(The marriage bill, approved along party lines, must still be voted on a second time before it heads to Sócrates.)

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  • Gonçalo


    Just a minor correction: after the discussion of the details is over, after which the law will have to be voted again by the parliament, it will not head to Sócrates, who’s the Prime Minister, but to Cavaco Silva, the President (a conservative).

    He will then have the choice to either publish the law or veto it. He can veto the law for political reasons and send it back to the Parliament, where if it’s voted favourably once again he will have to approve it, or send it to our highest court for it to study whether it is fully according to the constitution; if it’s not, it will go back to the Parliament for them to do the required changes.

    Guess that’s all… And yeah, sucks they didn’t approve adoption right away, as Spain’s Zapatero did so many years ago, but hey, baby steps, baby steps…

  • Wen

    I think it was Belgium that also didnt immediately have adoption rights for homosexuals after gay marriage was legalized, that came a couple of years later, from what I learned about it.
    #1 Goncalo, what do you think will be the chances to all pass it fully. Could there be serious roadblocks regarding the constitution? If you have any idea. Congrats though!!

  • $0.02

    We’ll have adoption rights over there in due time. HEn you have toomany children needing homes and the “breeders” (hey we breed as well just differently) don’t want them they’ll know who to call. Like Goncalo said, baby steps.

  • B

    No. 1 · Gonçalo : “Guess that’s all… And yeah, sucks they didn’t approve adoption right away, as Spain’s Zapatero did so many years ago, but hey, baby steps, baby steps…”

    Do you know why adoption wasn’t approved right away? Also, which vote came first?

    Some may feel that you shouldn’t allow a couple to adopt unless they are in a stable relationship – e.g., a marriage or civil union that they cannot dissolve at will. So if the adoption bill was voted on first, there could be some members of parliament who voted “no” simply because they wanted to see the marriage bill pass first. If so, a subsequent vote could turn out differently.

  • tavdy79

    @ No. 2 Wen: the same has been true of most European states – gay adoption is far more controversial than gay marriage this side of the Pond.

    There are loads of European countries that recognise gay relationships but either ban gays from adopting outright or place restrictions on them, including Portugal, Germany, France, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Finland, Aland, Iceland, Czech Republic & Austria. In many cases recognition of gay relationships came earlier than full adoption equality – Denmark, Sweden and Belgium are three obvious examples. In Ireland single gays can adopt, but full adoption equality hasn’t been included in its CP Bill; a similar situation exists in Estonia.

    The two notable exceptions of which I’m aware are the UK and Jersey. The UK legalised CPs in 2005, however gay adoption had already been legalised by the back door in a 2003 Act that eliminated the requirement that prospective adoptive parents be married. Similarly Jersey already has gay adoption, yet the long-awaited CP Bill has not yet been passed.

  • miguel soares

    #2 the constitucional problem could be exactly the point where same-sex couples are excluded from adoption. Our constitution is one of the very few in the world to ban discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

    Some months ago the Constitutional Court decided that the ban on same-sex marriage was not unconstitutional – although it was almost a tie the voting in the court. So maybe there won’t see any unconstitutionality there. If they see it the law goes back to parliament, and the doubt is if the Socialists are ready to pay the political price of the adotion. I don’t think the price is that high, but the socialists are easily scared. Today there were 2 proposals with adoption rights, by the Greens and Leftists, but they only got the votes of their own parties and a few Socialists. Even the Comunists only voted for the Socialists proposal – without adoption…

  • miguel soares

    #5 yep, 100% correct. Just to had that single gays can also adopt in Portugal, and that gay couples have legal recognition since 2000 with “facto unions”, a cohabitation law that grants a few basic rights to people living under common economy – funny thing about that, brothers and sisters can aply, also groups of 3 adults or more.. As far as I know, the only european law that in practise can be used to give a few basic rights to poligamic families or incesteous relationships.

    Sorry for my bad english spelling.

  • Wen

    tavdy, Im in Holland, where there is gay adoption. I wasnt aware of the adoption issue being such an issue, so thanks for making me aware.

  • Wen

    @6 miguel soares, it really sounds theyre backing away for now from adoption to get the marriage through. Thanks for explaining. I will follow the news on your country in this in the upcoming weeks.

  • Gonçalo

    Well, the questions have kind of been answered already, but i’ll tell what i know and think.

    As for #2 Wen and #4 B:
    As Miguel said, the Constitutional Court (if that’s the right translation, I don’t know…) has already issued a vote on gay marriage. It came because of a lesbian couple who required the right to get married based arguing it was discrimination on basis of sexual orientation and, as such, forbidden by the constitution (this same process led to legalization of same sex marriage in South Africa), but the Court ruled negatively (3 – 2), declaring the constitution left the decision up to the lawmakers.
    Based on this ruling, it’s pretty obvious that the court decides lawmakers have the power to introduce same sex marriage.

    The problem arises from the project approved, presented by the government, which changes the adoption laws so that the approval of same sex marriage doesn’t automatically approve adoption by same sex couples as well, as would happen if nothing was said. The conservative parties say that this creates a new kind of discrimination and, as such, is unconstitutional. This would be, in my point of view, the only argument the President could use to veto the law, but it would be highly hypocritical on his part to do so. We’ll just have to wait and see.

    As for the rights of adoption vs marriage, #5 tavdy79, I don’t know this issue too well but, from what I’ve heard in the debates that took place in last few weeks, adoption by same sex couples is actually allowed by more countries than those who have same sex marriage (as marriage itself, not including those who have similar but different institutions, such as the UK, France, etc…)

    Well, I guess I’ve answered all the questions, if not, ask away. I’m sorry if I’m mistaken about anything, I don’t know all that much about Law, but I’m trying to recall what I’ve been hearing.

  • Gonçalo

    #9 Wen, actually, to be honest, I really think if the government (backed by the Socialist party) had decided to approve marriage together with adoption rights, it could probably be done. They’d only need to get the support from the Communists, and I don’t think they’d dare voting against marriage with adoption if that was the only alternative on the table.

    However, the promise to approve same sex marriage was made by Sócrates the last time he was re-elected leader of the Socialist Party and it was the only blunt promise in their proposals in the elections to the Parliament on last September. As such, Sócrates argued that he was only entitled to approve same sex marriage, as the portuguese people had elected him Prime Minister according to that proposal and not to adoption. It was, I’d say, a way not to alienate any more the public opinion in this still very prejudiced country (a sad inheritance from our strongly Catholic past, as much as it saddens me).

    On the other hand, however, not being as much discussed as marriage has been, it would allow the president to veto a marriage and adoption rights Law because of a supposed lack of discussion by the society (which he has done recently in relation to relatively minor changes intended for the “facto unions” Miguel referred, because in the end he is against all this).

    Sorry for the long texts, hope I was of any help!

  • bagdade

    it is very probable that the president will veto this decree law, on political grounds (as the constitutional court has just elected a progressive judge that will make it impossible for the court to consider this legislation unconstitutional). if he does so, then parliament will have to confirm this diploma or change it and send it back to the president who hen has to sign it.
    the other issue that is very likely to be put forward in the next couple of years is that the prohibition put in place of same sexers from applying to adopt a child may very well turn out to be unconstitutional on the basis of the principle of non discrimination seen together with those of rights of personality and of forming a family…sorry for the clumsy english…

  • Wen

    Goncalo, youve been very helpful and Im trying to understand. The chances that the president will block it if its plus adoption rights are high, but as I read in bagdade post (#12), its also high when its without adoption, correct? So, maybe take the risk to get adoption in it as well (as you say there will probably still be a majority in parliament). But then the president will veto it, then new votes have to come. If marriage+adoption are again accepted, president can veto and it will go to court, where they can decide if plus adoption can be done? If not, then your PM can still go for marriage only and do the adoption later, with the progressive judge bagdade is talking about.
    But sorry if I dont fully understand. I will look into your posts again tomorrow, its very late here lol.
    Funny how you mention though the power of the Catholics because on the Dutch gay site there was a short article on Portugal having legalized marriage today, and that they didnt have to deal with so much religious pressure as Spain had when they legalized it. Maybe it is different/less though, but I was suprised to read the Catholics didnt make much of an issue about it, while this doesnt seem to be the case. I think you all write English very well, by the way, no need to apologize :)

  • Gonçalo

    I think Sócrates didn’t go for adoption rights now as not to make a bigger uproar within the society. Probably, as long as the court does not rule marriage can’t be done without adoption rights, we will have to wait a while for them to come. Some recent polls have shown that while the population is fairly divided in relation to marriage, there’s still very strong opposition to adoption rights.

    As for the Church’s opposition, it has do, first of all, with the evolution since marriage was approved in Spain which has proven equality is going to happen, sooner or later. Also, the Pope will be visiting our country in May, and I’ve read somewhere the Church, knowing it is inevitable that the Law will be approved given the Parliament’s constitution, doesn’t want he issue to be delayed so that it’s over when Ratzinger arrives!

  • Wen

    @4 Goncalo, the Vatican recently released a statement, believe it or not, saying that homosexuals shouldnt be discriminated against! Or killed, or be put to prison for being gay, and also be treated decently. I doubt the Vatican included gay marriage. I hope your parliament can legalize it before the Pope visits. Thanks for your respons.

  • miguel soares

    #13 Gonçalo already explained, just to add a few points. The Portuguese Church is, traditionally, much less politicaly engaged then the Spanish. Of course they lean to the right, but compared to Spain.. they’re neutral. Also, it was obvious that there was nothing they could do against it, and they also saw the results of the big fight in Spain: it only alienated left Catholics.. it was a war with nothing to win for their side.

    In general Portuguese politics is much less extremed then in Spain, where right and left are very clear and different fields. Our “conservatives” call themselvs “social-democrats”, for instance.

    Finally, there were some rumours on press about a secret peace pact on the issue made by the Prime Minister and the head of the church. This was denied by both, but it’s very likely that it actually happened, since the church is having other sensitive discussions with the government.. like financiation of church charities etc.

  • miguel soares

    #14 yes, as long as this bill is approved, adoption is just a matter of time.. you just need someone to fight up to European courts to get it.

    Like I said before, right now it would be hard to pass it in parliament, the issue is far from peacefull inside the Socialist and the Communist parties, and we would need the votes of them both plus Greens and Leftists. I was very disappointed to see only one positive vote from the right, although there were much more deputies in favour, but didn’t dare to go against their parties leaders.

  • Mike in Asheville, nee "in Brooklyn"

    Wow, an intelligent informative discussion of an important current event right here on Queerty. And not one insult.

    Go Portugal!

    Regarding adoption, can I adopt Ronaldo Cristiano? LOL!

  • Gonçalo

    #18 Mike, he’s actually Cristiano Ronaldo, not the other way around=P

  • Gonçalo

    That’s really not up to me…
    And I think we have much better, honestly!

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