President Cavaco Silva

Portugal has become the sixth European nation to legalise same-sex marriage after its president reluctantly agreed to ratify the new law.

President Anibal Cavaco Silva said that he had put aside his personal convictions and signed the legislation as his veto would simply be reversed by the liberal majority parliament.

“Given that fact, I feel I should not contribute to a pointless extension of this debate, which would only serve to deepen the divisions between the Portuguese and divert the attention of politicians away from the grave problems affecting us,” Silva said.

Ironically, he made the announcement just days after a visit by Pope Benedict XVI to the country during which the Pontiff reiterated the Catholic Church’s view that same-sex marriage was among “today’s most insidious and dangerous threats to the common good”.

The Church’s failure to stop the legislation will come as a blow to the Pope; Portugal becoming the second predominantly Catholic European nation after Spain to legalise gay marriage.

Portugal has recognised same-sex relationships as civil unions since 2001 but the new legislation, which removes the definition of marriage as being solely between a man and a woman, will grant lesbian and gay couples full marriage rights.

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