Monday

21st Jan 2019

Focus

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

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join 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.

EU court bars tests for gay asylum seekers

Authorities in EU countries can no longer impose controversial psychological tests to determine whether an aslyum seeker is telling the truth about their homosexuality.

LGBTI protection still lacking in EU

Despite some welcome advances, some legal rights for the LGBTI community are lacking in EU member states, and the rise of the populist right is making things worse, conference in Warsaw is told.

News in Brief

  1. Germany sent 8,658 asylum-seekers to other EU states
  2. Poll: Macron popularity up four percent
  3. 'Economy is broken' says Oxfam in global inequality report
  4. Vestager under pressure to allow Siemens-Alstom deal
  5. Teargas and clashes in Athens over Macedonia name change
  6. EU trade commissioner asks for green light for US talks
  7. Slovakia's commissioner takes unpaid leave to run for presidency
  8. Minority elects Lofven as prime minister of Sweden

Opinion

The dangers of resurgent nationalism in Greece

Virulent nationalism in Greece has been stirred up in the context of austerity and renewed negotiations with Macedonia. Recent attempts by the government to address the inequalities suffered by LGBT persons have also been met with a reactionary backlash.

Supported by

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us