Two women were the first gay couple to wed in Portugal today after the country legalised same-sex marriage.

Teresa Pires and Helena Paixao, both divorced mothers in their 30s, married in a 15-minute ceremony in capital city Lisbon.

Ms Pires said the change was a “great victory” and a “dream come true”, AP reports.

The couple have been activists for gay marriage for years and said they would continue to fight for adoption rights, which the law does not grant.

Portugal became the sixth country in Europe to legalise gay marriage after President Anibal Cavaco Silva reluctantly approved the legislation.

He said he did not veto it as he knew parliament would overrule him and because the country currently has more urgent issues to deal with.

The law was passed just three days after Pope Benedict XVI finished a visit to Portugal. He had warned his followers that allowing gay marriage was a “dangerous threat to the common good”.

The new legislation removes any references to gender in the country’s marriage laws. However, it does not allow gay couples to adopt children.

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

The UK offers civil partnerships, which some campaigners say are not adequate.