LGBT rights in Portugal

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LGBT rights in Portugal
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Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1982,
age of consent equalized in 2007
Gender identity/expression -
Recognition of
same-sex marriage since 2010
Adoption No joint adoption by same-sex couples nor IVG
Military service Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation and gender identity protections (see below)

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Portugal have improved substantially in the past decade and are now among the best in the world. After a long period of oppression during the Salazar dictatorship, Portuguese society has become increasingly accepting of homosexuality, which was decriminalized in 1982,[1] eight years after the Carnation Revolution. Portugal has wide-ranging anti-discrimination laws and is one of the few countries in the world to contain a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation in its Constitution. Since May 2010, the state became the eighth in the world to recognise same-sex marriage, even though any couple of the same sex are not able to jointly adopt - but they may adopt as individuals.

Former laws against homosexuality

Homosexuality was first decriminalised in 1852, but it was made a crime again in 1886, and Portugal gradually became more oppressive of homosexuals until and throughout the dictatorship years.[2]. It wasn't until 1982 that homosexuality was decriminalised again, and the age of consent was equalized with opposite-sex activity at 14 years of age in 2007.

Gender identity/expression

Discrimination based on gender expression is illegal by the Portuguese law. Formal approval of a sex change is recognised.

Discrimination protections and hate crimes laws

In 2003, laws against discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment came into effect concerning three particular measures: access to work and employment, protection against discrimination in work and against sexual harassment. Since 2004, the Constitution prohibits any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation, making Portugal one of the only countries in the world to enshrine a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation in its constitution. A new Penal Code in 2007 came in force which strengthened the anti-discrimination legislation much further, containing several provisions that relate to sexual orientation in three aspects: recognition of same-sex relationships through protection in the same means as to opposite-sex relationships, such as against domestic violence and murder; equal age of consent between same-sex and opposite-sex relationships; and sexual orientation being considered an aggravating circumstance relating to homicide, thus, organizing, supporting or encouraging discrimination and violence towards persons or groups based on sexual orientation (like other discriminations such as race and religious beliefs) is criminalized.[3][3]

Recognition of same-sex relationships

Portugal has recognised de facto unions between same-sex couples since 15 March 2001, and same-sex marriage since 17 May 2010. Same-sex marriage was legalised under the second term of the Socrates Socialist Government, and passed the Portuguese Parliament with the support of other leftist parties. Same-sex married couples are granted all of the rights of opposite-sex married couples, except the right to jointly adopt children.

Couples in de facto unions (união de facto), whether they be of the same sex or opposite sex, are granted several rights of marriage. This includes tax, welfare, immigration and health benefits. The Penal Code was amended in 2007 to criminalize domestic violence in same-sex relationships, thus equalising treatment with opposite-sex couples.

Adoption and family planning

Although single gays may adopt, joint adoption of children is restricted to opposite-sex couples (regardless if in a de facto relationship or married), same-sex couples are also informally forbidden of receiving children in a refuge family. Besides this, IVG is also currently not available for both single women and lesbian couples. Parenthood is the only area of Portuguese legislation which continues to discriminate against same-sex couples.

Living conditions

Portugal is generally tolerant of gays. Homophobic violence is extremely rare (two reported cases in the past fifteen years).

There is a dynamic gay scene in Lisboa, Porto and in the main touristic cities of Algarve, like Faro, Lagos, Albufeira and Tavira, with gay bars, pubs, nightclubs and beaches (in Algarve). Other smaller cities and regions such as Aveiro, Leiria, Coimbra, Braga and Madeira have much more discreet gay communities, nearly invisible to the public eye. In Lisbon, most LGBT-oriented businesses are grouped around the bohemian Bairro Alto and the adjacent Príncipe Real and Chiado neighbourhoods..[4][5] In both Lisbon and Porto there are also annual Gay Pride Parades that attract thousands of participants and spectators. Lisbon is also host to one of the largest LGBT film festivals in Europe, the Lisbon Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. Some Portuguese beaches are popular among LGBT population, like 19 Beach, near Costa da Caparica , and Barril Naturist Beach (an official naturist beach) or Cacela Velha Beach, both of them near Tavira.[6][4]

Public opinion

A Eurobarometer survey published in late 2006 showed that only 30% of Portuguese surveyed support same-sex marriage and 20% recognise same-sex couple's right to adopt (EU-wide average 44% and 33%).[7]

Opinions on same-sex marriage have considerably changed in 2009 with the discussion of the same-sex marriage bill. A survey by the Universidade Catolica reveals that 42% of the inquired citizens were in favour of same-sex marriage and another recent survey by Eurosondagem, Radio Renascenca, SIC TV, and the Expresso newspaper stated that about 52% of the Portuguese are in favour of same sex marriages.[8][9] Most recently, an Angus Reid poll on January 11, 2010, showed that 45.5% of those polled were in support of same-sex marriage, but this was less than the 49.3% that opposed.

Views on adoption have not changed significantly: only 21.7% favor adoption while 68.4% oppose allowing gay couples to adopt.[10]

Summary table

Homosexuality legal Yes (from 1852 to 1886; and since 1982)
Gays allowed to serve in the military Yes (since 1999)
Recognition of same-sex unions (Unregistered Cohabitation) Yes (since 2001)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment Yes (since 2003, 2 December - Labour Code > articles 22, 23 and 24)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas Yes (since 2004, 22 April - Constitution > article 13)
Equal age of consent Yes (since 2007, 15 September - Penal Code > article 173)
Homophobia criminalized (hate/speach crimes) Yes (since 2007, 15 September - Penal Code > articles 132 and 240)
Recognition of protection within same-sex couples (domestic violence/murder) Yes (since 2007, 15 September - Penal Code > article 152)
Same-sex marriage Yes (since 2010 - Civil Code)
MSMs allowed to donate blood Yes (from 2005 to 2009; and since 2010 - Approved in Parliament)
(Co-)Adoption by same-sex couples No (adoption allowed only if single)
Access to IVF for lesbians and single women No
Formal approval of sex reassignment (counseling, therapy and surgery) Yes
Right to change legal gender No (only after surgery, through law suit and court ruling)
Anti-discrimination laws in any area concerning transgendered people No (camouflaged in gender discrimination)
Recognition of sexual orientation and gender identity for asylum request No
  • 1982 - Portugal decriminalizes homosexuality;
  • 1999 - Homosexual and bisexual people are able to serve openly in the Military Service;[11]
  • 2001 - Unregistered cohabitation is extended to same-sex couples (same rights as opposite-sex couples with the exception of adoption);[12]
  • 2003 - Labour Code rights (access to work and employment, protection against discrimination in work and sexual harassment);[13]
  • 2004 - Sexual orientation is included in the Portuguese Constitution within the Principal of Equality (article number 13);[14][13]
  • 2005 - The Portuguese Institute of Blood officially allows Gay/Bi/MSM to donate blood, however, this decision will be annulled in 2009 by the President of this Institute, Gabriel Olim;
  • 2007 - Penal Code rights (age of consent equal for same sex and opposite-sex couples, protection against violence and hate crimes);[13]
  • 2009 - Inclusion of sexual orientation subjects in sexual education in schools (Law of Sexual Education);[15]
  • 2010 - Marriage is extended to same-sex couples (same rights as opposite-sex couples with the exception of adoption);[16][17]
  • 2010 - Approval in Parliament of a law allowing men who have sex with men to donate blood.[18][19]

See also



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