Greece discusses LGBTQI+ marriage
Greece, a deeply religious Orthodox country and member of the European Union since 1981, is discussing a Law for the marriage of LGBTQI+ couples. A few years after the adoption of the political pact, on the initiative of the opposition, the country now focuses on the model of liberal democracies.
The Syriza-Progressive Alliance (Syriza-PA) bill entitled “Elimination of Gender Discrimination in Family Law, Safeguarding Marriage Law for All and Necessary Legislative Adjustments” was presented to Parliament a short time ago.
According to the Greek press, the draft law provides for the right to any type of marriage without distinction. Based on the first draft which was presented to the Greek parliament, the parties to any type of marriage automatically acquire the full rights in particular the right to have children and the right to access assisted reproductive methods regardless of gender, characteristics and gender identity or sexual orientation.
If the Greek parliament adopts the bill, the marriage will in practice be performed as a civil marriage, since the Greek Orthodox Church closes the door to the idea of the marriage of LGBTQI+ individuals.
The status of the LGBTQI marriage in the EU
Until Syriza-PA’s new bill same-sex marriage was recognized in 13 EU Member States (Austria, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Malta, Ireland, Finland, France, Denmark, Luxembourg, Spain, Sweden and Portugal) and 16 EU Member States. alongside the UK, Norway, Iceland.
In previous years, first Cyprus and then Greece adopted the civil partnership pact, which is seen by experts as the first step towards securing the freedoms and rights of LGBTQI people. This development came during the years of SYRIZA's government. At that time the party of the Left was criticized for taking sparing steps in social modernization.
Syriza’s endorsement and the reactions
Syriza presented the new initiative stating that “After formulating a first draft of the bill, Syriza put it up for public consultation on the party’s website, followed by a series of events and communications with LGBTQI+ organizations, resulting in a rewrite (of the bill) and changes to its regulations.”
Syriza urges the government “if it respects the rights of LGBTQI+ people and accepts the wording of the European Parliament Resolution of 14 September 2021 (2021/2679/(RSP)) that LGBTQI+ rights are human rights, to bring the bill for discussion and vote directly in the plenary session of the country’s legislature.”
The initiative of the main opposition party caused reactions in the Greek political and social sphere. A few months before the submission of the new bill, the ruling conservative party, New Democracy (ND), argued that Greece needs more time to adopt reforms in this area.
According to Maria Natsiou, Secretary of Social Solidarity and Human Rights of the ND, “although in Greece the situation is disappointing, as the existing institutional framework is not sufficient to protect their basic individual rights, whilst discrimination issues of the LGBTQI+ community have been addressed by the European Court of Justice and the Council of Europe, the new committee for the drafting of the National Strategy for LGBTQI+ Equality will collect data to envisage legislative regulations or amendments to existing ones.” Natsiou doesn’t provide a timetable for the completion of the new committee’s work. Instead, she refers to the commitment of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis that “the LGBTQI+ people must find an equal place in the economic, political and social life of our country.”
Unlike ND, the Pasok-Movement for Change which is Greece's third largest party supports for the idea of gay marriage. Panagiotis Vlachos, Secretary of Communication, for the Movement for Change states that “We support marriage for same-sex couples and seek the full establishment of equal rights and freedoms in their relationships, childbearing, artificial reproduction and health care. It is not enough to respect their freedom, but we must strive to establish their full and effective equality in order to eliminate the discrimination they experience in employment, education and in their participation in social and economic life.”
A similar stance is taken by Mera25, which in a recent statement pointed out that “Mera25 supports any initiative that moves towards the establishment of the self-evident right of LGBTQI+ people to marriage and procreation and will contribute with all its strengths to the formation of a society that wants to be called free.”
At the same time, other parties in the Greek Parliament reject the idea of gay marriage. The Communist Party of Greece (KKE) holds a negative stance, taking the view that “The Party's position is that every person should be free to choose a partner, free from all economic and social coercion, for as long as that choice lasts. The party disagrees, however, that one person's life, rights and economic situation should depend on another, as provided for in the Civil Partnership Agreement and in civil or religious marriage. Social progress is expressed through the struggle to overturn all those constraints that remain in a couple's marriage and not their extension to same-sex couples.”
The new draft is also expected to be voted against by the conservative party, the Hellenic Solution.
Opponents and supporters of gay marriage
Apart from the Orthodox Church, large segments of Greek society also hold a negative stance in the issues concerning the LGBTQI+ community. One hundred years after the establishment of the Greek State, religious and conservative values still dominate the everyday lives of the Greek people. In this vein, the discussion for the recognition of LGBTQI+ rights is overshadowed by various opposing arguments. Besides the religious and moralistic arguments, the conservative ideologues also use legal arguments. One of them is Aristides Alex Pelecanos, who argues that “According to Article 21 para. 1 of the Constitution marriage means only the union of a man and a woman, and it shall not be understood or permitted to designate or regulate as 'marriage', by law or by any other provision of a State organ, agreements between persons of the same sex. The relevant provision neither prevents nor requires the enactment of a law regulating such agreements, which cannot be characterized as 'marriage' nor have the constitutional protection of marriage.”
For Pelecanos “the institutionalization of the cohabitation of homosexual persons in a premarital relationship (or even the mere characterization of it as ‘marriage’), as well as the possibility for them to procreate minors will be perceived by the overwhelming majority of society as a grave institutional faux pas and will have very damaging consequences for the development of the Greek family and society.”
On the other hand, Maria Giannakaki opposes the above argumentation, arguing that "civil marriage of same-sex couples or gay marriage is the wrong terminology. I borrow a slogan that came out two or three years ago in Spain, when they were celebrating ten years of civil marriage: ‘It's not gay marriage, it's marriage. It is a civil marriage for all citizens. Without asterisks and without discrimination, and that is something that everyone must understand. It is a universal right of citizens.”
The position of Giannakis is shared by organisations that are fighting for the safeguarding of basic freedoms in Greece. The position of these organisations is that Greece, despite the conservative majority of public opinion, needs to align itself with liberal standards.
*Dr Nikolaos Stelgias was born in Istanbul. He is an independent researcher, writer, historian and journalist. His doctorate is in the field of the modern Turkish political system (Panteion University, 2011). His latest book “The Ailing Turkish Democracy” was published by the Cambridge Scholars Publication in 2020. Dr. Stelgias was a correspondent of the newspaper "Kathimerini (Cyprus edition)" for Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot community from 2009 to 2021. Currently, Dr. Stelgias works at the Cyprus News Agency. Dr. Stelgias publishes in Turkish news articles and analyses on Cyprus and Greece on the news website 'Duvar".