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Greece legalises same sex marriage in ‘historic moment’ for LGBT+ community

Legislation allows same-sex couples to adopt children but stops short of granting surrogacy rights

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Friday 16 February 2024 05:04 GMT
FILE: German parliament backs same-sex marriage

Greece has become the first Christian Orthodox country to legalise same-sex marriage in a landmark victory for the LGBTQ+ community.

The legislation allowing same-sex couples to wed and adopt children was passed on Thursday by a cross-party majority of 176 votes in the 300-seat Greek parliament.

Seventy-six lawmakers rejected the bill drafted by prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis's center-right government while two members abstained.

Greece "is proud to become the 16th (European Union) country to legislate marriage equality", Mr Mitsotakis wrote on X after the post.

"This is a milestone for human rights, reflecting today's Greece – a progressive, and democratic country, passionately committed to European values," he added.

The legislation was approved despite strong resistance from the Orthodox church and mass protests over the weekend opposing gay civil marriage. Organisers of a rally in the capital Athens described the bill as a threat to the traditional family as they chanted: "Hands off our children."

Although members of Mr Mitsotakis's New Democracy party abstained or voted against the bill, it gained enough support from the leftist opposition in a rare show of cross-party unity despite a tense debate.

Three small far-right parties and the Stalinist-rooted Communist Party rejected the draft law from the start of the two-day debate.

"This law doesn't solve every problem, but it is a beginning," said Spiros Bibilas, an openly gay lawmaker from the Passage to Freedom party.

Ahead of Thursday's vote, the prime minister said: "People who have been invisible will finally be made visible around us. And with them, many children (will) finally find their rightful place."

"Both parents of same-sex couples do not yet have the same legal opportunities to provide their children with what they need," he added. "To be able to pick them up from school, to be able to travel, to go to the doctor, or take them to the hospital. ... That is what we are fixing."

Although the bill confers complete parental rights to married same-sex partners, it precludes gay couples from parenthood through surrogate mothers in Greece.

Surrogacy is only available to women in the country who can't have children for health reasons.

The absence of any provisions for transgender people in the legislation was criticised by the rights organisation.

Vassilis Stigas, a far-right lawmaker and chief of the Spartans party, described the legislation as "sick" and claimed that its adoption would "open the gates of Hell and perversion".

Former prime minister Antonis Samaras claimed ahead of the vote that "marriage of same-sex couples... is not a human right".

But the legislation was celebrated by LGBTQ+ rights groups, who called the approval "a historic moment" and a "day of joy".

"Discrimination is the most pervasive risk factor for mental health," Psychologist Nancy Papathanasiou, scientific co-director of Orlando LGBT+, told the Associated Press.

"So just knowing that there is less discrimination is protective and promotive for LGBTQI mental health."

The bill will become law when it is published in the official government gazette.

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