The Portuguese Parliament approved a law which clears a path for people as young as 16 to change their gender on official documents, without the need for medical or psychological evaluation.
The law was approved with votes in favour by the Socialist Party, the Animal Rights Party and the radical Left Block.
Isabel Moreira, an MP from the Socialist Party, described the law’s approval as a "historic day that honours every trans person and their families".
The Communist Party, generally more conservative in moral issues of this sort, abstained. The Social Democrats and the right-wing Popular Party voted against.
Vânia Dias da Silva, from the right-wing party CDS-PP, which opposed the bill, said: "We disagree with this law. [Those who are] 16 years old can't marry, drink, or drive, so they shouldn't be able to make a decision with such definite and serious consequences."
President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa still needs to sign the law for it to gain force, and it is not guaranteed that he will do so. He could refuse and have it sent back to Parliament, in which case his hands would be tied if it is approved again, or he can send it to the Constitutional Court.
Besides the general concerns of “gender ideology” language included in the law, there are more specific worries regarding conscience protection. The wording of the current law allows for changes to birth-certificates, but does not state these alterations need to be mentioned - leaving no way for private organisations, including churches, to know if the people they are dealing with are biologically of the gender stated on their official documents or not. There is no mention of conscience protection in the law.
The president of the Portuguese Bishops Conference, D. Manuel Clemente, said the law is “very illegitimate”. Clemente, who is also Patriarch of Lisbon, added that being male or female is “not a social construct”, but “a defining feature” and that to allow a choice of this nature to be made before people reach adulthood, possibly against the wishes of their parents, flies in the face of common sense.
The Patriarch referred to a document published by the Portuguese bishops in 2013 regarding gender ideology, in which they said: “from a purely scientific point of view, it is obviously an illusion to think that you can dismiss biological facts when identifying the differences between men and women”.
The Gender Law follows a number of other liberal law changes that have reshaped the social landscape in Portugal: same-sex marriage in 2010 and same-sex adoption in 2016.
PICTURE: PA File Photo - Balloons float in front of a public building during Gay Pride 2015 in Lisboa, 27 June 2015. LGBT activists have welcomed the vote