Parliament approved, last February, a bill allowing the civil marriage between persons of the same gender.
It is regretful that political will was not available to reach an enlarged party consensus over such an unsavoury issue, in order to avoid unnecessary cleavages in Portuguese society.
In the face of the grievous crisis which the Country is going through, it would be important to promote union amongst the Portuguese and not to divide them, to choose a strategy of compromise and not one of rupture.
The political parties that approved the bill did not wish to ponder an elementary principle of political action in a plural society: to choose, among the various juridical solutions, that which would be less susceptible to give rise to social conflict or that which could become acceptable by a greater number of citizens whichever their vision of the world.
I believe it would not have been difficult to reach a compromise in Parliament should a serious effort have been made in that respect.
It would just have been necessary to consider the juridical solutions found in countries such as France, Germany, Denmark or the United Kingdom, which are obviously not discriminatory, and respect the marriage institution whilst a union between man and woman.
In these countries, the union between persons of the same gender recognized rights and duties similar to those in marriages between persons of different genders, but it was not designated as a marriage with all the consequences that derive from it.
Moreover, in the whole world, the designation “marriage” between persons of the same gender is only accepted in seven countries. Of the 27 States in the European Union, there are only four who do so.
Thus it is untrue to state that the non existence of marriage between people of the same gender corresponds to a residual phenomenon in the contemporary world, an archaic residue typical of the most culturally retarded countries.
I cannot believe that anyone can honestly qualify the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Switzerland or Denmark as retrograde countries.
The Parliamentary bill which allows marriage between persons of the same gender was submitted by me to the Constitutional Court for preventive investigation, and considered by this body as not unconstitutional.
This, however, would not prevent the possibility of the President of the Republic using the vetoing power conferred upon him by the Constitution and return it to Parliament.
However, regard should be given to the practical effects of such a decision and take into due account the superior national interest, in the face of the dramatic situation of the Country.
Considering the known positions expressed during the parliamentary debate over this bill, it is obvious that the political forces which approved it would do so again.
Under such circumstances, the President of the Republic would be obliged to enact it within an eight day period.
As such, I believe that I should not contribute towards the unnecessary dragging out of this debate, which would only accentuate divisions among the Portuguese and stray the attention of politicians from the resolution of the issues which so grievously affect people’s lives.
As President of the Republic it is my duty to consider the thousands of jobless Portuguese, the worsening of poverty situations, the situation the Country is facing due to the extremely high external indebtedness and other difficulties that must be overcome.
The Portuguese will surely remember that in my New Year’s message I alerted towards the very difficult moment in which Portugal finds itself, and I even stated that this could “lead towards an explosive situation”. And I also stated that it was not the time to invent excuses to postpone the resolution of the material problems of the Portuguese.
There are moments in the life of a Country in which the ethics of responsibility must be placed above anyone’s personal convictions.
I have thus decided to enact today the bill that allows civil marriage between persons of the same gender.