'Lesbians' don't have to be from Lesbos

A Greek court has dismissed a request by people living on the Aegean island of Lesbos to ban the use of the word lesbian to describe gay women.

Three residents of Lesbos, the birthplace of the ancient Greek poetess Sappho whose love poems inspired the term lesbian, brought a case last month arguing the use of the term in reference to gay women insulted their identity. In a ruling made public yesterday, the Athens court said the word did not define the identity of the residents of the island, and so it could be validly used by gay groups in Greece and abroad. The plaintiffs were ordered to pay court expenses of €230 (£180).

"This is a good decision for lesbians everywhere," Vassilis Chirdaris, lawyer for the Gay and Lesbian Union of Greece, told Reuters.

"A court in Athens could not stop people around the world from using it. It was ridiculous." He said the plaintiffs were free to appeal against the decision in a higher court.

Lesbos, which lies just off the Turkish coast, attracts gay women from around the world, especially at the village of Eressos, which is regarded as the birthplace of the poet in the 7th century BC.

Several residents testified during the trial that the use of the word lesbian had brought recognition to the island and helped boost its tourist trade.