Portugal gay community rallying around varied causes

The past couple of months in Portugal have been characterised by several political happenings that have affected, unified and mobilised the GLBT communities.

1. On January 6th the Portuguese government quietly published a new deliberation (9/99) establishing the national classification of disabilities in which homosexuality was implicitly included ("handicap of the heterosexual function"). Inspite the fact the "new" classification has no implications on a fiscal or social level, the document is to be used as a reference when analysing statistical figures, including the upcoming census. The document was based on the World Health Organisation's (WHO) International Disabilities Classification dated from 1976. Although the WHO has admitted since 1993 that the document in question is outdated and needs urgent revision, the Portuguese officials limited, based and justified themselves in making a literal transcript of the WHO document.

Since then the Portuguese GLBT movement has promoted several actions to expose the incompetency and ridicule the situation. Associacao ILGA-Portugal and GTH/PSR had a joint meeting with Chairperson of the National Medical Association, who agreed that the situation was at the very least incomprehensible and would order an immediate report. The Portuguese press has covered the issue extensively causing a great deal of embarrassment in the government. A Portuguese resident in Paris circulated a document regarding the 9/99 deliberation and managed to get signatures like Pierre Bergé (Yves Saint Laurent), Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Leader on May 68), Philippe Mangeot (ACT-UP Paris) and Paco Rabanne (Fashion Designer). Next week, Associacao ILGA-Portugal and GTH/PSR will file a formal complaint with the National Ombudsman containing among other documents, a petition with a number of signatures of prominent Portuguese personalities (doctors, psychiatrists, anthropologists, sociologists, journalists, politicians, writers, dancers, actors, artists, etc.).

2. The youth section of the Socialist Party (YSP) has just recently and successfully pulled one of the most old political tactic stunts in the book. In mid-1997 the YSP announced a Partnership Bill that would include same-sex couples infuriating the religious right and centre right parties in parliament. After a much publicised debate on the issue, raising hopes within the GLBT community and distracting their political opponents, the YSP started "backstage work" on another diploma targeted at different-sex couples. In January 1999 the YSP announced their new bill excluding same-sex couples gaining the applause of the religious right to what seemed like a more conservative positioning and the frontal opposition from the GLBT organisations in Portugal. Two weeks later the YSP issued a press-release stating their intention to expand the eligibility of the law to same-sex couples in the summer of 1999. On March the 3rd and after meetings with several political personalities, Associacao ILGA-Portugal and GTH/PSR turned their backs on MPs in the plenary and were subsequently thrown out of the building for disrespect during the first discussion of the newly proposed bill (for different-sex couples) alleging the "legal apartheid" the YSP adopted in dealing with this issue was unacceptable. The activists then met with fellow protesters out-side the building where banners and freedom-flags were waived in front of the media and a joint press conference was held.

Everything seems to indicate that the bill will be passed and that the YSP will go ahead with the same-sex extention later in the summer.

3. A group of GLBT organizations held the first of several meetings with several Unions in order to contemplate GLBT issues in their programs. This is the first time Labour Unions in Portugal recognise the need to address GLBT issues. More news will follow.

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