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social sciences

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The father took the case to the European Court of Human Rights, which found in 1999 that the Portuguese appeals court had "made a distinction based on considerations regarding the [father's] sexual orientation, a distinction which is not acceptable under the Convention" and ruled in the father's favor. The Court ordered the Portuguese state to pay him a large sum in damages.

Portuguese glbtq activists also won an important victory in 2001 when legislators, over the vociferous protests of the Catholic church, voted to extend to gay and lesbian couples living together for at least two years the same limited rights of common-law marriage that they had granted to similar heterosexual couples two years before.

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Other victories followed. For example, in 2003, Portugal, heeding recommendations of the European Union, enacted laws forbidding discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In 2004, protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was incorporated into the Constitution.

The new Penal Code of 2007 criminalized the organizing, supporting, or encouraging discrimination based on sexual orientation. Encouraging violence on the basis of sexual orientation was also criminalized.

The Penal Code also equalized the age-of-consent for homosexual and heterosexual activity and also criminalized domestic violence in homosexual as well as heterosexual relationships.

Same-Sex Marriage

Same-sex marriage was debated in the 2005 legislative elections, but the Socialist Party, which won the election, failed to clearly endorse marriage equality. Although the new Prime Minister José Sócrates refused to include same-sex marriage in his government's agenda, he did not rule out the possibility of including marriage equality were his government re-elected to a second term.

In 2008, a marriage equality bill was introduced in Parliament, but it was opposed by the ruling Socialist Party as well as by the right-wing parties and failed to pass.

In the 2009 legislative elections, however, Prime Minister Sócrates promised to support same-sex marriage if his party were returned to power. After being re-elected in October, the Prime Minister announced that his party, with the support of the Left Bloc, would propose a bill that permitted same-sex marriage but that would not include adoption rights (though gay men and lesbians are allowed to adopt as individuals).

Right-wing parties called for a referendum on the issue, but this proposal was rejected by the government.

On January 8, 2010, after a lengthy and impassioned debate, the Portuguese Parliament passed the bill establishing same-sex marriage in its first reading. During this debate the Prime Minister declared that passage of the bill would put right an injustice that caused unnecessary pain. The final parliamentary vote took place on February 11.

On February 24, the Constitutional Affairs Committee sent the bill to conservative Portuguese President Aníbal Cavaco Silva. Amid calls from right-wing parties and Catholic bishops for him to veto the legislation, the President asked the Constitutional Court to rule on the bill's constitutionality.

On April 8, 2010, the Portuguese Constitutional Court ruled 11-2 that the bill is constitutional, with three members concluding that the Constitution not only permitted but actually required the recognition of same-sex marriages.

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