Friday

3rd Feb 2023

Greece ends discrimination of gay people in civil union law

  • Gay pride in Thessaloniki, 2013. New law will allow citizens in a same-sex relationship to enter into a civil union (Photo: Ira Gelb)

Greece's parliament approved a bill late on Tuesday evening (22 December) allowing citizens in a same-sex relationship to enter into a civil union, a legal arrangement similar to marriage.

The law overrides the legal situation of the past seven years during which only men and women were allowed to have a civil union, and which the European Court of Human Rights has said was discriminatory.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Tsipras: 'Greek society is not as fearful and mean as some people wish to present it'

“This ends a period of backwardness and shame for the state, which led to our country receiving international rulings against it,” said Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras, according to Kathimerini newspaper.

“Instead of celebrating, though, maybe we should apologise to hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens that have been denied their rights all these years,” the left-wing leader added.

In 2008, Greece introduced civil union rights, but excluded people in same-sex relationships.

Several gay couples lodged complaints with the Strasbourg-based court, which oversees the rights established in the European Convention on Human Rights.

In a ruling of November 2013, the court said the Greek government “had not offered convincing and weighty reasons capable of justifying the exclusion of same-sex couples from the scope” of the civil union law.

Tuesday's adopted legislation attempts to correct this situation.

It was approved with 194 Yes votes and 55 No votes. The bill received support from Tsipras' Syriza party, centre-left and centrist MPs, and from around a third of members of centre-right New Democracy.

Syriza had made same-sex civil unions an election promise.

However, in Tsipras' coalition party, the right-wing nationalist Independent Greeks, six of its nine parliamentarians voted against. The neo-nazi Golden Dawn party and communists also voted against.

The Greek Orthodox Church had lobbied against the bill, with some bishops quoted as saying that homosexuality was a “crime”.

Gay rights lobby group Ilga-Europe was happy with the outcome.

“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,” it said in a statement.

Human rights lobbyists from Amnesty also praised the result of the vote, but said more work was to be done to ensure the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI).

“Amnesty International stresses that the fight for LGBTI rights is far from over and urges the Greek government to guarantee all rights, including equality before the law (including marriage), adoption rights and legal gender recognition for transgender people,” Amnesty said in a press statement.

It added that “LGBTI people in Greece still live in a climate of hostility from which the authorities are failing to protect them adequately”.

Prime minister Tsipras said the vote showed “Greek society is not as fearful and mean as some people wish to present it”, but added that more change was needed.

“We have a long distance to cover to continue the daily struggle against every type of discrimination, especially against racism,” noted Tsipras.

“This struggle needs democratic forces and social movements to come together. It requires constant vigilance and political courage so we do not let darkness win,” he said.

The Greek vote came just two days after Slovenians rejected gay marriage in a popular vote.

Almost two-thirds of those who showed up at a referendum voted to repeal a gay marriage law passed earlier by the Slovenian parliament.

Slovenia rejects gay marriage law

Almost two-thirds of people rejected a law on gay marriage in Slovenia’s referendum on Sunday, highlighting an east-west EU cultural divide.

Analysis

MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils

European Works Councils can play a key role for workers and their unions to bargain effectively — but what are they, why have they been neutered, and why is big business objecting to greater powers?

Latest News

  1. Greece faces possible court over 'prison-like' EU-funded migration centres
  2. How the centre-right can take on hard-right and win big in 2024
  3. Top EU officials show Ukraine solidarity on risky trip
  4. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  5. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  6. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  7. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  8. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us