Being gay in Portugal can be difficult outside the main towns and larger international holiday resorts, as Portugal is largely a very traditional and conservative country, although it is becoming more tolerant of homosexuality. Still, don't expect to find much of a gay scene in the smaller towns. Gay Portugal is restricted to places like Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve, which are more outward looking than the rural communities. Lesbians fare even worse in terms of specific scenes as they are pretty much ignored. The law does not mention homosexuality and consequently gays have the same rights as heterosexuals. Take note that the age of consent is set at sixteen. In 2001 the Partnership Bill allowed heterosexual and homosexual couples that have lived together for more than two years the same rights as married couples.
A useful place to contact is the Centro Comunitário Gay e Lesbica de Lisboa, at Rua de São Lazaro 88 in Lisbon, contactable on 218 873 918, which arranges gay events in the town and can advise on similar activities in other destinations, perhaps providing contacts or at least pointing you in the right direction for more information. In Lisbon you will find several gay bars, community centres, restaurants, saunas and even beaches. The best place to go is the Bairro Alto or the Praça do Prínçipe Real where the relaxed atmosphere in the clubs and bars is a welcome change to the rest of Portugal. Although scenes of homophobic violence are rare, discrimination at work and at school is reported regularly.
The Gay Pride Festival (Arraial Gay e Lésbico) takes place in Lisbon on the Saturday nearest the 28th June with the support of the city authorities and it has become quite a popular event. In the last fortnight of September there is a Gay and Lesbian film festival (Festival de Cinema Gay e Lésbico de Lisboa). Porto and Leiria had their first Gay Pride marches in 2001 and the Algarve is becoming increasingly sympathetic to gay venues. Outside Lisbon, however, you may find that these keep a low profile and that it is necessary to ring a doorbell to gain entry, or that the club even looks closed from the outside.
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