Gay couples in Portugal are waiting to see whether their re-elected prime minister will follow through with his campaign promise for gay marriage.

José Sócrates and his Socialist Party government were returned to power last weekend but without a parliamentary majority.

However, the left wing occupies a majority of the seats, with all left wing parties agreeing with gay marriage.

Portugal, which has a large Roman Catholic population, has seen all previous efforts to instigate same-sex marriage hit by heavy resistance from the country’s religious groups and conservative politicians.

This year, a lesbian couple tried to challenge the gay marriage ban as unconstitutional.

Teresa Pires and Helena Paixao, two divorced mothers in their 30s who have been together since 2003, challenged the country’s law when they were turned away from a registry office in Lisbon in 2006 after trying to wed.

The registry office rejected their attempt to marry on the grounds that the law states that marriage is between people of different genders.

In July, the Portuguese constitutional court upheld the ban on same-sex marriage.

Sunday’s voting also saw an openly gay politician elected in Portugal for the first time.

Miguel Vale de Almeida is an independent MP for the Socialist Party.