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Lawmakers in Portugal have voted for a bill that will make same sex marriages legal. The move, in one of Europe’s more socially conservative countries, has attracted relatively little controversy.
Same sex couples in Portugal can now plan the big day
Portugal's parliament has voted in favor of the bill to legalize same sex marriages by a clear majority.
However, members rejected proposals to give gay couples the right to adopt.
Left-wing and ecological parties voted for the legislation, which comes less than 30 years after the country revoked a ban on homosexuality, while conservatives voted against.
The proposals will now be reviewed in detail by a committee and could receive final approval ahead of a visit to the country by Pope Benedict XVI in May.
A step forward for democracy
Prime Minister Jose Socrates said the law "put an end to pointless suffering" of homosexuals and that it represented "another phase in the long history of democracies against discrimination."
Prime Minister Jose Socrates said the bill would put an end to pointless suffering
But he rejected criticism that homosexuals would still be discriminated against with regard to adoption, arguing that this and marriage were "two totally different questions."
Socrates acknowledged that, for the country's young people, the fact that homosexuality had been a crime until 1982 seemed incredible.
Socrates' government was honoring a pledge made by his Socialist Party before it lost an absolute parliamentary majority in September.
Church leaves issue to politicians
Portugal's Catholic Church has been moderate in its criticism compared with neighboring Spain, which gave homosexuals full marriage rights and the right to adopt in 2005. At the time, hundreds of thousands of Spaniards protested against the reform in church- sponsored street rallies.
In Portugal's capital, Lisbon's patriarch, Bishop Jose Policarpo, said the matter was "parliament's responsibility."
Activists connected to the Catholic Church organized a petition signed by 91,000 people calling for a referendum ahead of any approval, but this was rejected by parliamentarians.
Editor: Susan Houlton