9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN13 Sociology of Families and Intimate Lives

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 Same Sex Families Building II, Auditório B1.03

"We Are Family Too!" Same-sex relational claims in Portugal

According to the Eurobarometer (2003), 93% of Portuguese citizens say "the family" is the most important aspect of their lives. But defining what a family is or what it is not is a difficult task. The Portuguese Civil Code, under Family Law, states that there are four juridical sources of family relationships - marriage, kinship, affinity and adoption (Article 1576). Each of these sources of family relationships is influenced by the premise of heterosexuality (Butler, 2002). However, legal definitions of "the family" are object of dispute, and they have been targeted by the LGBT movement in recent years. In the Portuguese context, as this paper will highlight, this has been a central field of contestation on the part of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activism, with impact on "law´s families" (Diduck, 2003) or how LGBT relational-claims (i.e., those related to the recognition of relationships and parenthood) contribute to widening the legal understanding of "the family".
In this paper, I examine the relationship between same-sex relational claims and socio-legal obstacles and advances, highlighting the centrality of two major value-discourses (Williams and Roseneil, 2004) in Portugal: "the family" and "the child". I then discuss the heteronormative value-discourse of "the family" as particularly important in Portuguese legal texts. I suggest that LGBT rights face a situation of "normative ambiguity" (Krieger, 2003) - on the one hand, the Portuguese Constitution provides protection from (individual) discrimination; on the other hand, specific laws mirror the heteronormative value-discourses of the lawmaker, preserving the law as a site of (relational) discrimination.
This opposition is counterbalanced by a recent shift. The last section of the paper explores signs of socio-legal change and examines the underlying reasons for them, putting particular emphasis on activists? proactive engagement with political parties in recent years.