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Greece becomes first Orthodox Christian nation to legalise gay marriage

Same-sex marriage was legalized in Greece this week after a lengthy parliamentary debate. Though the vast majority of Greek citizens are celebrating the move, pushback from the church highlights tensions between longstanding religious tradition and modern views in the country.

Yesterday, Greece legalised same-sex civil marriage. Although it is the sixteenth European Union country do so, it is the first Orthodox Christian nation to permit same-sex marriage.

The country had extended civil partnership to same-sex couples in 2015, however, it stopped short of extending equal parental rights at the time.

After his landslide re-election last year, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis pledged to pass the new measures, telling his cabinet last month that same-sex marriage was a matter of equal rights.

He noted that similar legislation was currently in place in more than 30 other countries, and said that there should be no ‘second-class citizens’ or ‘children of a lesser God’ living in Greece.

In addition to recognizing same-sex marriages, the legislation allows same-sex couples to adopt, and gives the same rights to both same-sex parents as a child’s legal guardian. To date, these rights had only been granted to the biological parent.

PM Mitsotakis highlighted the practical benefits of the law, underscoring its significance in facilitating essential everyday activities for same-sex couples with children, including school pickups, domestic and international travel, as well as access to healthcare.

Left-leaning media has labelled the move a triumph, as polls have shown that a majority of Greeks were in favour of the bill.

That said, leading members of the Greek Orthodox Church, including senior bishops, had written letters to parliament outlining their objections to the law change.

Religious groups have framed the legalization of same-sex marriage as something that would worsen the declining birth rate in European countries, calling it a ‘threat to the traditional family model’.

The contentious nature of the legislation was evident during its parliamentary debates, which lasted over 30 hours across two days.

Despite opposition, the bill secured passage with 176 votes in favor and 76 against, with strong support from center-left and leftist opposition parties.

‘Today is a day of joy because starting tomorrow another barrier between us is removed to create a bridge of coexistence in a free state with free citizens,’ said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Still, the bill falls short of providing access to assisted reproduction or surrogacy for same-sex couples, and it does not address parental rights for transgender individuals.

The new legislation signals a significant shift in Greek society, reflecting evolving and more progressive attitudes towards LGBTQ+ rights and recognition.

Yet, it also underscores the ongoing challenges and divisions within the nation, including the tension between society’s traditional values and modern values of equality and inclusion.