LISBON (AFP) — Portugal's ruling party and the main opposition shot down Friday the latest proposals to allow same-sex marriages in the Roman Catholic country.
"The debate has not yet matured" enough in Portuguese society, ruling Socialist Party lawmaker Jorge Strecht said after the measures were defeated by a large majority.
Introduced by the tiny Left Bloc and the Green Party, the proposals needed to find broad support from either the Socialists or the main opposition Social Democratic Party if they were to pass.
Gay rights campaigners argue the law stipulating that marriage must be between a man and a woman is illegal as it contradicts the constitution, which was altered in 2004 to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Gay couples were in 2001 given some of the same legal and tax benefits enjoyed by heterosexual couples in common law marriages. Public opinion polls show a majority of Portuguese oppose allowing gay marriages.
Since neighbouring Spain legalized same-sex marriage and adoptions by gay couples in 2005, pressure from gay rights campaigners has been mounting in Portugal for Lisbon to do the same.
Prime Minister Jose Socrates' Socialist government, which enjoys a majority in parliament, has said it has no plans to alter the legal definition of marriage.
It did however overcome strong opposition from the Catholic church to legalise abortion in 2007.
The gay marriage issue gained prominence in February 2006 when a lesbian couple filed a legal challenge to the law after their request for a marriage licence was turned down by a Lisbon registry office.
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