Portugal’s parliament today voted to legalise marriage for gays and lesbians.

The Catholic country is now the sixth in Europe to grant same-sex couples the right to wed, although this will not include adoption rights.

Addressing lawmakers before the vote, prime minister Jose Socrates said the law “rights a wrong” and would end “pointless suffering”.

But he added: “This issue of adoption is different as it does not just involve adults who are free to give their consent.”

The law will remove any references to gender in the country’s marriage laws.

Although centre-right parties opposed the change, all left-wing parties supported it.

The law must be approved by President Anibal Cavaco Silva but parliament has the power to override a veto from him.

It is expected to come into force in April, a month before Pope Benedict XVI visits the country.

Five other European countries allow gay marriage: Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.