The Portuguese parliament on Friday voted to hold a referendum so that citizens can decide whether gay couples should be allowed to adopt children.
The measure was presented to lawmakers by the ruling center-right Social Democrat Party (PSD).
The decision to put the question to a popular vote has stirred up controversy across Portugal, where gay marriage was legalized in 2010. Even Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho’s conservative coalition is split on the issue.
While the PSD voted in favor of holding the referendum, lawmakers from the Democratic and Social Center-Popular Party (CDS-PP), the government’s coalition partner, abstained from voting. One CDS-PP member called the measure “very unfortunate.”
Some PSD members, who defend gay adoptions, said there was no need to hold a referendum at all and that the right should be approved by parliament. That same position was taken by the opposition Socialists (PSD), which approved the gay marriage law when they were in government.
The referendum must now be approved by the country’s Constitutional Court and will have to be signed into law by President Aníbal Cavaco Silva. Although he came out against gay marriage, Cavaco Silva, who is a practicing Catholic, signed it into law four years ago.
In 2005, gay marriage and adoption by homosexual couples was legalized in Spain. Last year, after a bitter debate, France legalized gay marriage but not adoptions.