Friday, May 17, 2013

Progressive Portugal

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Portugal has had a long and complicated political history. In the last century, it was ruled by a brutal right-wing dictatorship from 1926 to 1974. The non-violent Carnation Revolution (or "25 April") of 1974 put an end to that tyranny, and the country held its first democratic election in 50 years a year later. But there was little stability in those early years of democracy, the country swinging back and forth from left to right, a new constitution adopted in 1976 and then revised in 1982 and 1989. And yet, through it all, stable and legitimate parliamentary democracy took hold. Looking at it now, from our current vantage point, it all seems quite remarkable. After decades and deades of oppression and terror, Portugal was able to build a healthy, sustainable democracy without all that much turmoil and bloodshed.

What is also remarkable is that this mostly Roman Catholic country that little to no experience with, nor appreciation for, diversity, a country with a long history of repression and exclusion, and worse, has become a beacon for progressive values. Maybe that can happen when you've been through what Portugal went though, and when you can start anew in a more progressive time, but it is remarkable nonetheless.

And one of the areas where it is most progressive is gay rights:

Portugal has offered marriage equality to same-sex couples since 2010, but until now had not allowed those couple to adopt each other's children. Today, the Portuguese Parliament passed a bill 99-94 to allow adoption, ending the discrepancy in what it means for same-sex couples to be married. Portugal is one of the few countries in the world that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation in its constitution.

Again: Catholic country, long history of brutal tyranny, relatively new democracy.

And it puts the United States, supposedly, we are constantly told, the greatest country ever, a beacon of liberty, to shame.

You deserve our admiration, Portugal, and our praise.

(image: a flag for a more inclusive Portugal)

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  • First, welcome back young man! It's good to read more than 140 characters from you!

    I've always been a bit squeamish about my Portuguese ancestry. Especially as colonials, we were bastards. But it isn't too surprising that modern Portugal is embracing gay rights. It is like another strong Catholic country: Italy. Both allow abortions and both now have gay marriage. And somehow, Americans still cling to this notion that we have a separation of church and state. Maybe we should make America officially a Catholic country so we could get some good laws.

    By Anonymous Frank Moraes, at 1:00 AM  

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