PARIS ( - France's Socialist-led government said on Monday that it will move ahead with plans to give the same legal benefits to same-sex couples as it does to heterosexual marriages, but said it will not legalize same-sex marriage or adoptions by such couples.

      Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou said, "The government has committed itself to the possibility of resolving tax, inheritance, and social problems and that will be done." She added, "There should be no ambiguity about the possibility of homosexuals marrying or adopting children. That must be very clear in the text. It's not possible."

      Although France has seen the decline in adherence to tradition Catholic morality, including legalization of abortion and an increase in extramarital relations, the country's strong Catholic identity in rural areas has galvanized opposition to the idea of legalizing same-sex marriages. Homosexual groups that backed the Socialist Party in last year's elections have complained that the government has not been vigorous in pushing forward legislation in parliament that is favorable to parliament.

      To the south in Lisbon, Portugal, President Jorge Sampaio of Portugal said on Tuesday that a nationwide referendum on plans to allow abortion on demand would be held on June 28.

      The vote would be the first use of a referendum since a change to the country's constitution allowed the practice last year. Parliament has already approved a law allowing abortions up to the 10th week of pregnancy, but the ruling Socialist Party agreed to a vote after a national outcry. Further controversy arose over previous comments by Prime Minister Antonio Guterres who had said that, as a practising Catholic, he opposed any allowance for abortion.

      Portuguese voters will be asked whether they "agree with the de-criminalization of the voluntary interruption of pregnancy, if carried out at the decision of the woman and in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy in a legally authorized clinic." Although abortion was technically legalized in Portugal 14 years ago, the law restricts the procedure to very specific circumstances. In 1997, there were 280 legal abortions.

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April 29, 1998 volume 9, no. 83         DAILY CATHOLIC