Portugal’s New Adoption Law Hangs in the Air

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Portugal has the distinction of being the only nation with marriage equality, a right granted in 2010, but no equal adoption rights. In December of 2015, the Portuguese Assembly, now with a Left-leaning majority, took the first step to remedy this when it approved a gay adoption bill. Since then all eyes have turned to President Aníbal Cavaco Silva of the ruling center-right party. Silva can decide to sign the bill, send it to the Constitutional Court for review, or veto it.

Having the bill sent for promulgation at the end of last year has resulted in the media questioning not only what the President might do, but also how much time he has left to do it. January 2016 has now become the deadline for any action from the head of state.

By law, if the tracking period began on December 30th when the bill was sent for promulgation, Silva had until January 6th to question the bill’s legality by sending it to the Constitutional Court – a maneuver he had previously performed with the 2010 marriage bill. If the tracking period began on December 31st the last day to ask for a second opinion would be January 7th. If it is determined that the tracking period began on January 4th when the Assembly reconvened after the holidays, the last day to send to the bill for a judicial review would be January 11th. The Court would then have 25 days after accepting the request for a review to decide on the bill’s constitutionality.

In case the Constitutional Court receives and labels the bill as constitutional, the President would have 20 days from the publication of the Court’s ruling in the country’s official gazette to act. 20 days is also the same amount of time the President has to decide on his next move if he does not send the bill to the Constitutional Court. Leaving the Court out of the debate would mean Silva has between January 19th-23rd to sign or veto the legislation, depending on the first day the bill was being tracked. The Presidential election is on the 24th and Silva cannot run again.

According to presidencia.pt, should the President decide to reject the adoption bill “the Assembly of the Republic may get round the veto – and the president is obliged to promulgate it within 8 days if the legislation is again approved, without amendment, by a greater majority: as a rule the absolute majority of the Deputies or, in the case of more important legislation, by a two-thirds majority (organic laws, other electoral laws, laws concerning foreign relations, among others).”

Best of luck to our Portuguese friends.

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