Greece Is First Orthodox Christian Nation To Legalize Same-sex Marriage | Sojourners

Greece Is First Orthodox Christian Nation To Legalize Same-sex Marriage

Supporters of the bill which legalizes same-sex civil marriage gather in front of the Greek parliament, ahead of the vote, in Athens, Greece, Feb. 15, 2024. REUTERS/Louisa Gouliamaki

Greece’s parliament approved a bill allowing same-sex civil marriage on Thursday, a landmark victory for supporters of LGBTQ+ rights that was greeted with cheers by onlookers in parliament and dozens gathered on the streets of Athens.

The law gives same-sex couples the right to wed and adopt children and comes after decades of campaigning by the LGBTQ+ community for marriage equality in the socially conservative country.

Greece is one of the first Orthodox Christian countries to allow such unions.

“This is a historic moment,” Stella Belia, the head of same-sex parents group Rainbow Families, told Reuters. “This is a day of joy.”

The bill was approved by 176 lawmakers in the 300-seat parliament and will become law when it’s published in the official government gazette.

Although members of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ center-right 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.

“It’s a very important step for human rights, a very important step for equality, and a very important step for Greek society,” said 40-year-old Nikos Nikolaidis, a historian who joined a rally in favor of the bill ahead of the vote.

Recent opinion polls show Greeks are split on the issue. The powerful Orthodox Church, which believes homosexuality is a sin, has strongly opposed same-sex marriage, while many in the LGBTQ+ community believe the bill does not go far enough.

It does not overturn obstacles for LGBTQ+ couples in using assisted reproduction methods. Surrogate pregnancies will also not be extended to LGBTQ+ individuals, though the bill recognizes children already born through that method abroad.

Elliniki Lysi, one of the three far-right parties represented in parliament, called the bill “anti-Christian” and said it hurts national interests.

Former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, a New Democracy lawmaker, said: “Of course I will vote against it. The marriage of same-sex couples... is not a human right.”

Proud to be Greek

LGBTQ+ groups rallied outside parliament. A banner read: “Not a step back from real equality.”

“I’m very proud as a Greek citizen because Greece is actually — now — one of the most progressive countries,” said Ermina Papadima, a member of the Greek Transgender Support Association.

“I think the mindset is going to change ... We have to wait, but I think the laws are going to help with that.”

Campaigners have been pushing for change for decades, often against the tide of the Church and right-wing politicians. In 2008, a lesbian and a gay couple defied the law and married on the tiny island of Tilos, but their weddings were later annulled by a top court.

But there have been some steps in recent years. In 2015, Greece allowed civil partnership among same-sex couples, and in 2017 it gave legal recognition to gender identity. Two years ago it banned conversion therapy for minors aimed at suppressing a person’s sexual orientation.

(Additional reporting by Valentini Anagnostopoulou and Karolina TagarisEditing by Edward McAllister and Frances Kerry)

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