Greece becomes first Orthodox Christian country to legalize same-sex marriages

The members of the Parliament voted for the bill despite church officials’ objections.

2024 02 15T224147Z 1 LYNXNPEK1E0VW RTROPTP 4 GREECE LGBT MARRIAGE VOTE scaled
Members of the LGBTQ+ community and supporters celebrate in front of the Greek parliament, after the vote in favour of a bill which approved allowing same-sex civil marriages, in Athens, Greece, February 15, 2024. REUTERS/Louisa Gouliamaki

Greece has become the world’s first Christian Orthodox nation to legalise same-sex marriage after the Athens parliament passed a landmark reform amid scenes of both jubilation and fury in the country.

In a rare display of parliamentary consensus, 176 MPs from across the political spectrum voted in favour of the bill on Thursday. Another 76 rejected the reform while two abstained from the vote and 46 were not present.

The LGBTQ+ community waited for years for this law to be adopted

Members of the LGBTQ+ community, many unable to contain their emotion, watched from the galleries above. “We have waited years for this,” said the prominent gay activist Stella Belia of legislation that will not only allow same-sex couples to vows in civil ceremonies but also to adopt children.

The vote followed two days of heated debate, and weeks of public bitterness, with the reform described by supporters as “bold” and “long overdue” and decried as “antisocial” and “unchristian” by opponents including the powerful Greek Orthodox Church.

Despite facing formidable pushback from within his own centre-right New Democracy party, prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had championed the bill, saying it would end a serious inequality for the Greek democracy.

Mitsotakis said Greece needs to be in sync with the modern society

In a speech before the vote, Mitsotakis, who belongs to the liberal faction of his party, said the measure would align Greece with 36 countries globally that had already legislated on the issue. Conservatism, he argued, should not be conflated with antiquated views that were out of sync with modern society. He declared the reform will make the life of some fellow citizens much better without and is taking away anything from the lives of the many, adding that the law would confer full parental rights on same-sex couples.

But resistance had been strong from New Democracy MPs aware of their constituents in the socially conservative nation. Highlighting the opposition, the former prime minister Antonis Samaras had told parliament that same-sex marriage was not a human right and the “dangerous” law should not have been introduced.

Without the backing of Syriza, the main opposition leftist party led by Stefanos Kasselakis, Greece’s first gay political leader, and other smaller groups, the reform would not have passed.

Yet while three opposition parties voted in favour, the law also faced criticism for not going far enough. Describing the bill as “imperfect”, Syriza deplored the fact that it still banned same-sex couples from achieving parenthood through surrogacy, an option Kasselakis has acknowledged he would like to pursue with his American husband.

LGBTQ+ advocacy groups had also criticised the bill saying is far from ending discrimination, the law’s limitations, allowing only single women and straight couples to have access to assisted reproduction, as well as “the hate speech” that had engulfed so much of the debate had left many in the community feeling traumatised.

The Orthodox Church campaigned heavily against the law

Orthodox bishops had threatened to excommunicate lawmakers who voted for the measure while the leader of the far-right Spartans party had said the law would “open the gates to hell and perversion”.

The group was one of four parties, also including the communist KKE party, that overwhelmingly rejected the bill. All four insisted that if they had their way, the “monstrous” legislation would be nullified.

 

 

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