The Cypriot parliament has voted in favour of the Civil Partnership Bill, meaning that same-sex unions will be legally recognised in the Mediterranean republic for the first time.
The House of Representatives voted by 39 to 12 in favour of extending same-sex couples in civil partnerships the same legal rights as civil marriage. However, join adoption rights were not included in the new civil union legislation.
The issue of same-sex unions has created intense debate in Cypriot socity in recent months. Earlier in the year, Interior Minister Socrates Hasikos, one of the parliamentarians who co-wrote the bill, claimed that “society is mature enough to accept it…this is what people are asking for through various groups and organisations, political parties, and society at large”. However, the Cypriot Orthodox Church – which has consistently opposed Pride marches in the island nation – has taken a conservative stance on the matter, and has significant influence on public opinion.
Accept-LGBT Cyprus, currently the only pro-LGBT rights organisation in the country, said: “Cyprus is changing and looking ahead. And we have all become part of this change!
“Thank you for your patience and the confidence you have shown in us. This is a significant moment in the history of Human Rights in Cyprus.”
ILGA-Europe also expressed its delight at the bill finally being approved and offered its congratulations to the civil society groups, political leaders and allies involved in the lengthy campaign for their “persistence and dedication to equality”.
Evelyne Paradis Executive Director of ILGA-Europe, said: “Same-sex couples and their families are just as deserving of protection as their heterosexual friends and neighbours. This is not about giving one group ‘special rights’ but about recognising the wonderful diversity of families that live in Europe.”
The passing of the bill marks an end to several years op public and open discussion in Cyprus on same-sex unions. Recognition of civil partnerships was initially proposed three years ago, and the current bill was approved by the government in May 2015. Debate about the detail of the bill had led to postponements and the vote being delayed until yesterday.
The European Court of Human Rights’ unambiguous judgment in Oliari et al v Italy, which stated that Italy’s failure to provide any form of legal recognition for same-sex couples violated Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, arguably made a significant contribution to the outcome.