Portugal is expected to approve gay marriage this Friday when a bill comes up for debate in parliament.

It is thought the law is almost certain to pass, as left-wing parties who are supportive of gay marriage occupy a majority of seats.

If passed, it must go to a parliamentary committee before returning for final approval.

The bill would remove any references to gender in the country’s marriage laws and would come into force in April, before Pope Benedict XVI’s official visit the following month.

According to AFP, the bill has been met with little opposition in the Catholic country, unlike in Spain, where demonstrations were held when the country legalised gay marriage.

Lisbon’s Catholic Cardinal Patriarch Jose Policarpo has said that gay marriage is “parliament’s responsibility”.