Greece legalizes same-sex marriage, adoption

Members of the Greek government applaud Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis after his speech – Copyright AFP YAMIL LAGE

Yannick PASQUET

Greece’s parliament overwhelmingly passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage and adoption on Thursday in a landmark reform being pushed by the conservative government despite opposition from the powerful Orthodox Church.

Once the law is promulgated, Greece will become the 37th country in the world and the first Orthodox Christian country to legalize adoption by same-sex families.

The bill, which was supported by the New Democracy party of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, was approved by 176 votes out of 245 MPs present after two days of discussion.

“It’s a human rights milestone that reflects Greece today – a progressive and democratic country passionately committed to European values,” Mitsotakis said on X, formerly Twitter.

Dozens of people waving rainbow flags celebrated outside the parliament building in central Athens when the result was announced.

Although dozens of lawmakers from the ruling New Democracy party were expected to oppose the bill, support from opposition parties meant it was certain to pass.

Mitsotakis, who personally spearheaded the bill, urged lawmakers to “boldly undo the grave inequality” in Greek democracy that has made same-sex families “invisible”.

The reform would “significantly improve the lives of many of our fellow citizens without taking anything away from the lives of many,” he added.

The vote was hailed as historic by LGBTQ associations, which said same-sex families faced a labyrinth of administrative problems that amounted to discrimination under current family law.

When their children fall ill in Greece, non-biological parents currently do not have the right to decide what medical procedures are necessary for them.

Children do not automatically inherit from their non-biological parents.

If a child has two fathers, they can be registered at the registry office and covered by social services only by entering the name of the biological mother.

And if the biological parent dies, the state can take the children away from the other parent.

– Church “absolutely against” –

Dozens of the 158 lawmakers from Mitsotakis’ conservative New Democracy party were expected to oppose the bill or abstain.

However, the support of the main opposition left-wing party Syriza – its leader Stefanos Kasselakis is gay – the socialist Pasok party and other smaller parties meant that a default was almost impossible.

A simple majority vote in the 300-member parliament was needed to pass the bill.

The Church of Greece – which has close ties to many government MPs – said it was “totally opposed” to the reform, arguing that it “doomed” children to grow up in an “environment of confusion”.

Archbishop Ieronymos, the head of the church, criticized the proposed law as part of an effort to introduce “a new reality that only seeks to disrupt the social cohesion of the homeland”.

About 4,000 people demonstrated in Athens on Sunday against the measure, many brandishing religious icons and crucifixes.

“They say Greece is 30 years behind (the rest of the world). In such cases, thank God, it is,” said Niki, the speaker of parliament for the hard-right party, during the two-day debate on Wednesday.

Kasselakis, who married his partner in a ceremony in the US in October, has been subjected to homophobic slurs, most recently from the mayor of central Greece and the island group’s governor.

Mitsotakis was careful to stress last month that the changes would only benefit “a few children and couples”.

The Conservative leader, who comfortably won re-election in June, has promised to enact the reform during his second four-year term.

He made the announcement in January, just days after Kasselakis said Syriza would present its own proposals for marriage equality.

– “Day of Joy” –

Greek LGBTQ families, who have kept a low profile since the reform was announced last month, convened a celebratory rally in Athens on Thursday.

“This is a day of joy,” Rainbow Families Greece, an NGO that helps LGBTQ families, said on Facebook.

Same-sex couples will no longer be able to use assisted reproduction or surrogacy, procedures reserved for single mothers or heterosexual couples who have trouble conceiving.

Greece was condemned for discrimination against gays in 2013 by the European Court of Human Rights after gay couples were barred from civil unions in 2008.

Opinion polls show that most Greeks support same-sex marriage but oppose surrogacy.

Under the Greek constitution, unmarried parents regardless of gender have been able to adopt since 1946 – but until now the second partner in a same-sex union has been left out of the process.

Under the previous Syriza government, Greece legalized civil unions for same-sex couples in 2015, one of the last countries in the European Union to do so.

This law resolved property and inheritance issues, but did not regulate the adoption of children.

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