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Greek Parliament Approves Historic Bill Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage

In World
February 16, 2024

Greek parliament on Thursday approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, making history as the first majority Christian Orthodox country and the first in southeast Europe to do so.

The legislation, which also recognizes adoption rights for gay couples, faced strong opposition from the powerful Greek church, religious groups and some politicians.

Several members of the country’s center-right governing party New Democracy, including former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, were expected to vote down the reforms. Greece’s three far-right parties as well as the Communist Party also opposed the reforms.

But Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was still able to garner enough support for the legislation after securing the backing of four left-wing parties, including Syriza and Pasok.

The legislation is now headed to Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou’s desk for signature.

Under the new bill, gay couples are still not allowed to have children through a surrogate or assisted reproduction.

Under existing rules, having a child through a surrogate is only allowed for women who are unable to have their own children due to health issues.

Greece legalized same-sex civil partnerships in 2015 but only biological parents were recognized as legal guardians of children, leaving many gay couples in limbo. While that measure was opposed by conservatives at the time, Mitsotakis had voted in favor of it.

In a speech to parliament earlier Thursday, Mitsotakis said the new law means “people who have been invisible until now can finally become visible around us, and with them many children can finally find their rightful place.”

“For every democratic citizen, today is a day of celebration because starting tomorrow, another barrier will be lifted,” Mitsotakis added.

Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis speaks during a debate in parliament on same-sex marriage in Athens, Greece, on Feb. 15, 2024.
Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis speaks during a debate in parliament on same-sex marriage in Athens, Greece, on Feb. 15, 2024.

Michael Varaklas via Associated Press

Most polls ahead of the vote showed the public was split on the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage, but a majority opposed affording adoption rights to gay couples, according to The New York Times.

But the issue of equality in marriage was one of Mitsotakis’ campaign pledges ahead of the general election last summer. Mitsotakis secured a second-term with an absolute majority after winning in a landslide and coming ahead of Syriza by over 20 percentage points.

Despite the fact that Thursday’s vote only concerns civil unions, the church has mounted a campaign against it, making inflammatory statements and warning that it has the potential to jeopardize the traditional family model. The church had previously also opposed civil unions for heterosexual couples.

Protesters participate in a rally against same-sex marriage, at central Syntagma Square, in Athens, Greece, on Feb. 11, 2024.
Protesters participate in a rally against same-sex marriage, at central Syntagma Square, in Athens, Greece, on Feb. 11, 2024.

Yorgos Karahalis via Associated Press

Following Thursday’s vote, Greece is the 16th country in the 27-member European Union to legalize same-sex marriage.

Some have speculated that taking up the bill is part of a political calculation by Mitsotakis that it would help alleviate international concerns about a spyware scandal and press freedom, according to Politico Europe.

Last year, Stefanos Kasselakis became the first openly gay person to be elected party leader in the country after former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras stepped down from the leadership of Syriza. Kasselakis married his partner in New York in October prior to the passage of this new law.

Stefanos Kasselakis, leader of main opposition party Syriza, speaks to supporters outside the party's headquarters in Athens, on Sept. 25, 2023.
Stefanos Kasselakis, leader of main opposition party Syriza, speaks to supporters outside the party’s headquarters in Athens, on Sept. 25, 2023.

Yorgos Karahalis via Associated Press

Kasselakis has warned there will be repercussions for members of his party that choose to abstain or vote down the legislation.

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