In terms of LGBT rights most of the media focussed on the fight to achieve equal marriage. Although in many countries around the world this is now the case, there are many places that still do not treat LGBT people with the same decency as heterosexual citizens. Thankfully the activists and campaigners have carried on the fight without large media coverage, and there is progress to report from Portugal, a country that had legalised same-sex marriage in 2010.
As with many countries around the world, same-sex marriage was legalised but the right of these couples to become parents has often been a second thought. Consequently there are still restrictions on whether these people can become parents through adoption or through a willing surrogate. In Portugal there was an election held a number of months ago and a centre-left minority government was (eventually) formed with support from socialist environmentalists, communists, anti-capitalists, and trade unionists. Despite this success of the Left to form a government, the country continues to have a conservative President, and this had led to problems with the passage of legislation.
The legality of same-sex adoption was an example of legislation that was passed in November and was later vetoed by President Anibal Cavaco Silva. Silva’s justification was that the lawmakers should “consider the child’s best interest” which was a thinly veiled attempt to deny equality to same-sex couples. However, much as with the case of presidential vetoes in countries around the world, the legislature can overturn this decision with enough support votes.
In Portugal’s Assembly of the Republic the bill needed 116 votes out of 230 to override the President’s veto; three days ago the bill passed with 137 votes in support. Admittedly this result was foreseen as the current left-wing government, when the supporting parties are taken into account, have 122 votes between them, but the overall number shows that there was support from more ideological conservative lawmakers. The bill will become law next week, irrespective of whether or not the President signs it.
This is an important development, not least because of the many couples in Portugal who will now be able to become parents, but it means the disparity between those countries making progress and those not is widening. Rather than take a negative view of our brothers and sisters who are facing difficult battles in Eastern Europe, I have an uncharacteristically positive outlook.
Because of the interconnectedness of the modern world, and the access that millions of people have to the internet, progress in the US, Japan, or Portugal is no longer only relevant to the residents of those countries. With LGBT rights being expanded across the world, the pressures on countries that are standing against inequality are mounting.
For example, when Ireland had its referendum of marriage equality, people from around the world called on the Irish people to vote in favour of the proposal. Not only did people around the world encourage people to vote ‘yes’ but the aftermath of the result increased the pressure on the parties in Northern Ireland to pass marriage equality. Although this is yet to take place it is illustrative of how progress in one part of the world can have profound social impacts.
In the case of Portugal there will be campaigners in continental Europe that use this step forward as motivation to continue expanding LGBT rights. I am confident that this reinvigorated mass of activists and protesters will, much like those who have come before, make significant progress for LGBT people around the world. In more liberal societies the issue of same-sex marriage has often become settled, with a few notable exceptions, but there are many cases in which other less well known rights are being denied. This progress in Portugal will raise the consciousness of people all over the world, and hopefully bring about further steps toward full equality.