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Greece passes legislation on same sex couples

 

January 2016

Greece has enacted a human rights bill which allows civil partnership agreements between same-sex couples, despite opposition from political parties and the fundamentalist Orthodox Church.

A number of European countries, including Britain, Spain and Cyprus, have established legislation allowing registered partnership rights for same-sex couples but the issue remains contentious in many other EU states.

Although Greece allowed such agreements for heterosexual couples in 2008 it excluded homosexual couples, a move which the European court of human rights ruled discriminatory in 2013. Last week, 193 members of the 300-seat parliament voted in favour of similar rights for same-sex couples.

The Greek prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, who has promised social reforms to mitigate the impact of the EU/IMF loan terms, said the bill closed "a circle of embarrassment for the state".

"This is a great moment, not only for the LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex] community, but also for legal equality in Greece", Vasiliki Katrivanou, a member of Tsiprasís Syriza party, told parliament.

"But what is worth discussing is Ö that it took us so long, that it took all these struggles," she said, adding that the bill should pave the way for same-sex couplesí civil union, which was Syrizaís pre-election promise.

The draft law was approved by the socialist Pasok party, the centrist Potami party, the Union of Centrists and several conservative deputies, but was rejected by some members of Tsiprasís rightwing coalition partner, the Independent Greeks. Panos Kammenos, the defence minister and leader of the Independent Greeks, did not appear for the vote, which was completed after midnight.

Dozens of supporters rallied outside parliament as members debated the bill. In a symbolic move, two gay activists in clerical dresses kissed outside Athensí Metropolitan Church, in front of a banner that read "Love is not a sin".

The bill does not allow same-sex couples to marry or adopt children, as in other countries, and does not give them similar pension, tax and health rights, gay and lesbian activists said. "We want this civil partnership, but we want it in full," said Dimitra Kyrilou, an activist and a civil engineer.

The bill was also rejected by the Communist party, the far-right Golden Dawn party, whose leader said that "church bells should toll mournfully across the country", and the Orthodox church. "People of the church believe in a certain lifestyle," said Archbishop Ieronymos. "Anything outside this is a diversion."

But Syriza members said that some people "prefer to turn a blind-eye to reality" and that "darkness was defeated".

"Itís about the oldest story in human relationships," said the finance minister, Euclid Tsakalotos, who had a rainbow badge pinned on his jacket. "Two people love each other and want to be together but they are constantly faced with hurdles."

Greek Tribune

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