Lesbian couple begin marriage fight February 2, 2006Posted by igualdadenocasamento in Imprensa Estrangeira, Portugal, Teresa & Helena.
From correspondents in Lisbon
A Portuguese lesbian couple filed for a marriage licence today in an attempt to open a legal battle they hope will lead to the legalisation of same-sex marriage in the staunchly Roman Catholic country.
Helena Paixao, 35, and Teresa Pires, 28, applied for the licence at a Lisbon registry office under the glare of dozens of cameras.
Officials said they would study the request and give their decision tomorrow.
As Portuguese law currently does not allow for same-sex marriage the request is widely expected to be turned down.
But the couple, who have been together for over three years, said they plan to argue in court that this goes against the constitution, which was altered in 2004 to ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
The two women are the first gay couple to mount a public challenge to marriage laws in Portugal, where the gay community has a low profile.
They sparked a media debate over the issue of same-sex marriage earlier this year when they announced their intention to seek a marriage licence.
Gay couples were in 2001 given some of the same legal and tax benefits enjoyed by heterosexual couples in common law marriages however public opinion polls show a majority of Portuguese oppose allowing gay marriages.
But since neighbouring Spain legalised same-sex marriage and adoptions by gay couples last year, pressure from gay groups has been mounting in Portugal for Lisbon to do the same.
Last month Britain became the latest country to recognise some form of gay union, following Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain.