Marriage Equality in Greece

On Thursday 15th February 2024, Greece finally approved a landmark bill that legalises same-sex marriage and grants adoption rights to same-sex couples.  The bill was passed after a two-day pariamentary debate that began on Valentine's Day, following months of divided political discussions.  It is a historic day for many Greeks who until now were denied parental and family rights, with many being treated as second-class citizens for years.  Crowds had gathered outside the Greek parliament in Syntagma Square on Thursday night, waving rainbow flags and cheering for what they deemed to be a big step for Greece's LGBTQ+ community.  Greek PM said: "this is a milestone for human rights, reflecting today's Greece, a progressive and democratic country, totally committed to European values".

The marriage equality bill passed with the support of 176 Greek MPs from both sides of the political spectrum, which today enjoys the backing of the majority of Greek public opinion.  With the adoption of the law, Greece has become the first Orthodox Christian country in the EU to allow same-sex marriage, and the 16th country in the EU to legislate marriage equality.  The Greek based foreign embassies of 28 countries from around the world have welcomed Greece in joining more than 37 states that have granted recognition and equal rights for families with same-sex parents.

Archbishop Ieronymos, leader of the Orthodox Church of Athens and all Greece, took a relatively soft low-key stance on the issue of same-sex marriage.  He is considered to be a follower of realpolitik and a balancer, in contrast to his predecessor.  He proved once again, that no archbishop is willing to limit himself to his remit - the Church.  All of them feel that they have an obligation to intervene in politics, and this is a problem, as he raised the issue of denying baptism to the children of same-sex couples, which is rather difficult to implement according to the theologians' point of view.  Gradually, the church's ability to co-shape political decisions is being limited, maybe it is time to start a serious discussion about the separation of the church and state in Greece.  

Days later, tension rose between Church and State after Archbishop Ieronymos expressed dismay with PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis' speech during the House debate on the legislation.  The archbishop believes that the Prime Minister does not seem to accept that the Church should express its opinion on issues concerning society.  He is also annoyed with the choice of President Katerina Sakellaropoulou to attend a victory party at a bar in central Athens immediately after the legislation was passed.  Ieronymos is considering not attending the dinner organised by the President in honour of the Church for Orthodoxy Sunday on 24th March, and also suggesting that he may not attend the annual 25th March military parade celebrating Greek Independence Day in Athens.  We'll have to wait and see what happens.

Church authorities across Greece accuse lawmakers who voted for the reform of committing 'the deepest spiritual and moral error'.  This action further highlights the ongoing friction between the socially conservative Church and the government of PM Mitsotakis, whose centre-right government proposed the law.  This development suggests an escalation of this internal conflict within Greece.

The first civil marriage of a same-sex couple took place in Nea Smyrni on Sunday 3rd March, after the relevant law was passed.  The gay wedding took place under police watch after the couple received threats.  The first lesbian wedding was celebrated later that week when the Athens Mayor married the couple in a ceremony in central Athens, attended by dozens of friends and relatives.