Greece Becomes First Orthodox Country to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

- Friday, 16/02/2024, 09:09

The country’s Parliament also extended equal parental rights to same-sex couples, including clearing the way for them to adopt children.

Greece Becomes First Orthodox Country to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage
Participants carried a giant pride flag in the Athens Pride parade last June.Credit...Spyros Bakalis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Greece legalized same-sex marriage and equal parental rights for same-sex couples on Thursday as lawmakers passed a bill that has divided Greek society and drawn vehement opposition from the country’s powerful Orthodox Church.

Although Greece became the 16th European Union country to allow same-sex marriage, it is the first Orthodox Christian nation to pass such a law. The country extended civil partnerships to same-sex couples in 2015, but stopped short of extending equal parental rights at the time.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had pledged to pass the new measures after his landslide re-election last year. He told his cabinet last month that same-sex marriage was a matter of equal rights, noted that similar legislation was in place in more than 30 other countries, and said that there should be no “second-class citizens” or “children of a lesser God.”

In addition to recognizing same-sex marriages, the legislation clears the way for adoption and gives the same rights to both same-sex parents as a child’s legal guardian, whereas to date such rights have applied only to the biological parent. It would also affect the daily lives of same-sex couples, Mr. Mitsotakis told Parliament on Thursday, allowing those with children “to collect them from school, to be able to travel with them, to take them to the doctor.”

The law does not provide same-sex couples with access to assisted reproduction or the option of surrogate pregnancies. It also does not give transgender people rights as parents.

The bill passed with 176 votes for and 76 against in the 300-seat Parliament on Thursday after more than 30 hours of fiery debate over two days. Strong support from the center-left and leftist opposition parties pushed the measure through. (Of the 300 members of the body, a total of 254 people voted. Two of them voted present; the rest abstained.)

Mr. Mitsotakis hailed the vote in a post on social media, describing the new law as “a milestone for human rights.”

Human rights advocates have welcomed the prospect of same-sex marriage for Greece. Maria Gavouneli, the president of the Greek National Commission for Human Rights, an independent public body, called the measure “long overdue.” And Stella Belia, the founder of Rainbow Families, an organization that supports same-sex families, called the legislation “a major victory that we’ve been fighting for for years.”

“It makes life much, much easier for many people, and it protects children that have been living in a state of precariousness,” Ms. Belia said, adding that the new measures will also end the practice of taking children of same-sex couples into the state’s care after the death of a biological parent. Without the new legal protection, she said, “they would lose not one, but both of their parents.”