Portugal’s parliament passed a bill last month that would make the predominantly Catholic country the sixth in Europe to permit gay marriage.
The conservative president, Anibal Cavaco Silva, is thought unlikely to veto the socialist government bill which won the support of all left- of -center parties.
Silva’s ratification would allow the first gay marriage ceremonies to take place in April, a month before Pope Benedict XV! is due to make an official visit to Portugal.
Right-of-center parties opposed the change and sought a national referendum on the issue, but their proposal was rejected and the government’s bill was passed by 125 votes to 99. Gay rights campaigners applauded from the galleries, hugging and kissing outside the building, celebrating with wedding cake.
The news, as great as it is, has sent me into a major depression.
35 Valentines ago, I decided to leave my native country, because
I thought I could never be myself there. There was a beacon calling me, a country called America. It seemed to me, a young man, the shiny example of a true democracy; maybe the only hope for an Italian gay man, suffocating in a country run by Church and Mafia. Or so I thought!
I was very naive back then, but I was excited, hopeful and young. I went across the big pond and landed in New York City. Very quickly I realized that America’s democracy did not contemplate gay rights. In fact, it wanted to have nothing to do with it.
So I came to my adopted country, and I witnessed the rise of Anita Bryant, the killing of Harvey Milk, and the emergence of hate preachers like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.
I watched as President Ronald Reagan spent 8 years hanging out with Hollywood celebrities, but hiding out from AIDS.
I saw the rampant homophobia, gay bashing, and the incredible absence of any laws protecting people because of their sexual orientation.
I read all the articles about gay men getting set up, busted, and arrested for hanging out in public parks, when all many of them were trying to do was meet another man privately.
What was all this? How could the greatest country in the world be so oppressive?
What happened to the spirit of the founding fathers or, for that matter, to the 60’s generation? Autumn came to the country that had a summer of love.
Every Valentine’s Day, for one reason or another, I stop and think what it might have been, if I had remained in Europe. I left for a free America where we are not only still fighting for gay marriage, laws and legislators and voters are still voting against it.
Yet, on the continent I left, gay marriage is acceptable, permissible, and even commonplace. Gay marriage is now permitted in Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and soon Portugal. Many other countries like the UK, Denmark, Iceland, Austria, Finland, Greenland, France, Luxembourg, and Switzerland fully recognize same sex unions. So does Slovenia, The Czech Republic, and even Germany. While, the European Union’s Constitution prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, legislators who sought to ban gay marriage are still serving and getting re-elected in our prestigious U.S. Senate. Some prestige.
Alas, I have no choice, I cannot go back now. This is my country, and, because I love it, I will continue the fight here until we find a Gay Moses who leads us out of Kansas.
I’m pretty convinced that eventually we will catch up with those “liberal” Europeans. So enjoy today’s Valentine’s Day issue of SFGN, but think about what YOU can do to bring about change.
We may not be the ‘love that no longer speaks its name.’ But we are still not the love getting stamped with the Good Housekeeping seal of approval.
Speed up the process. Speak up, stand up, be counted. Get involved- Happy Valentine’s Day and pass the chocolate.