Portugal's conservative president announced Monday in Lisbon he is reluctantly ratifying a law allowing gay marriage, making the predominantly Catholic country the sixth in Europe to let same-sex couples wed.

President Anibal Cavaco Silva said he would not veto the bill, because majority liberal lawmakers would only overturn his decision. The country must focus instead on battling a crippling economic crisis that has increased unemployment and deepened poverty, he said.

"Given that fact, I feel I should not contribute to a pointless extension of this debate, which would only serve to deepen the divisions between the Portuguese and divert the attention of politicians away from the grave problems affecting us," Cavaco Silva said.

He said he was setting aside his "personal convictions," though he did not elaborate and did not take reporters' questions.

The country's parliament passed the Socialist government-backed bill in January, with the support of all of Portugal's left-of-center parties, who together have a majority. Right-of-center parties opposed the measure and demanded a national referendum.

Elsewhere in Europe, gay marriage is permitted in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Norway. As well, five U.S. states and Washington, D.C., have legalized same-sex marriage, as have Canada and South Africa.