Greece has become the 26th country to recognise same-sex partnerships, after an overwhelming majority of 194 to 55 in the Hellenic Parliament supported a new bill.
Following a manifesto pledge from ruling party Syriza, the bill was published in June this year, followed by a revised bill in November.
Registered partnerships for heterosexuals were introduced in 2009, and this was declared discriminatory by the European Court of Human Rights.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who pledged significant social reforms in order to mitigate the negative impact of an EU/IMF bailout, claimed the bill closed “a circle of embarrassment” for Greece.
“This is a great moment, not only for the LGBTI community, but also for legal equality in Greece”, Vasiliki Katrivanou, a Syriza party politician, told parliament. She added, however, that “[it] is worth discussing is … that it took us so long, that it took all these struggles”.
As a result of today’s vote, same-sex couples will now benefit from various rights and protections including on inheritance. The bill also extends greater anti-discrimination protection on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.
At the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans & Intersex Association European Region (ILGA-Europe) 2015 Annual Conference in Athens, Minister for Justice Nikos Paraskevopoulos reiterated the government’s commitment to passing the civil partnership legislation.
Joyce Hamilton, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board told KaleidoScot: “This is the realisation of years of political promises. Successive Greek governments had talked about legally recognising same-sex couples and I’m thrilled to finally see these positive words translated into meaningful change for couples in Greece.”
Evelyne Paradis, Executive Director of ILGA-Europe added: “This is also the culmination of years of civil society campaigning and advocacy work. The passion of the Greek LGBTI movement was palpable at our recent Annual Conference in Athens – this result today is a reward for that conviction.”
In addition to this, representatives from all the main parliamentary parties signed a detailed equality pledge, which included a promise to improve the law on legal gender recognition. An ILGA-Europe spokesperson said: “It’s critical that the government starts to make progress on these issues and ILGA-Europe look forward to working with the Greek government in 2016 on the outstanding concerns mentioned in that document.”
The bill has been consistently opposed in recent months by the Greek Orthodox Church, which retains a great deal of influence. “People of the Church believe in a certain lifestyle”, said Archbishop Ieronymos. “Anything outside this is a diversion.”
A number of parties opposed the legislation, including the Communist party and far-right party Golden Dawn – whose leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos said that “church bells should toll mournfully across the country”.
Syriza politicians claimed that theri opponents “prefer to turn a blind-eye to reality” and that the passing of the bill ensured that “darkness was defeated”.
Some Greek LGBTI activists, however, have refused to be carried away in the political triumphalism and – while cautiously welcoming the development – have expressed their view that the legislation in some respects is quite weak. The bill does not allow same-sex couples to marry or adopt children, as in other countries, and does not give them similar pension, tax and health rights. Furthermore, it does not recognise marriages of people who were married outside Greece.
The passing of thie bill is expected to pave the way for civil partnership legislation. However, one activist, Dimitra Kyrilou, said: “We want this civil partnership, but we want it in full.”