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Greece’s government set to legalise same-sex marriage with the backing of the opposition

In this June 14, 2014 file photo, two women kiss in front of a rainbow flag in central Athens.
In this June 14, 2014 file photo, two women kiss in front of a rainbow flag in central Athens. Copyright AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File
Copyright AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File
By Euronews with AP
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A plan to legalise same-sex civil marriage and adoption pushed by the centre-right Greek government is set to be approved by Parliament thanks to the backing of the left-wing opposition, despite backlash from the Orthodox Church.

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Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s plans to legalise same-sex marriage in the country and allow adoption for LGBTQ+ couples obtained the crucial backing of the left-wing opposition on Thursday.

Stefanos Kasselakis, the openly gay ex banker leading the radical left party Syriza, said that he would instruct his 38 lawmakers to vote for the proposal, even though he criticised the measure for not going far enough on parenthood rights.

Kasselakis, who married his husband in New York in October 2023, has expressed the desire to have children through a surrogate mother—a practice which has recently received condemnation by Pope Francis and which has been made illegal in Italy.

The new measure pushed forward by Mitsotakis doesn’t allow same-sex couples to acquire children through surrogate motherhood in the future. Full parental rights would be granted to same-sex couples that already have children.

The country currently only allows that procedure in the cases of women - single or married - who are unable to bear children on health grounds. As well as heterosexual couples, single men or women are allowed to adopt.

A previous draft of the law proposed earlier this week would have allowed the right to parenthood through surrogate mothers.

In an interview with private Star TV, the politician said that despite its “imperfections”, the proposal unveiled by the prime minister on Wednesday contains “some positive elements”.

Greece has already legalised same-sex partnerships in 2015.

The backing of the opposition would ensure that the law passes the 300-seat parliament, despite a dozen lawmakers in Mitsotakis’s centre-right party, New Democracy, objecting to it. The party has a total of 158 lawmakers in parliament.

Kasselakis has criticised the prime minister for refusing to force all of his lawmakers to back a human rights issue, calling out his “political cowardice.” Mitsotakis was reelected for his second term in a landslide victory only six months ago.

Stefanos Kasselakis, leader of main opposition party Syriza, speaks to supporters outside the party's headquarters in Athens, Monday, Sept. 25, 2023.
Stefanos Kasselakis, leader of main opposition party Syriza, speaks to supporters outside the party's headquarters in Athens, Monday, Sept. 25, 2023.AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis, File

But the most vocal criticism of the plan has come from the country’s Orthodox Church, which still wields a massive influence on Greece and has warned that the law could be the first step in the dismantling of Greek society. According to the church, allowing for same-sex marriage is the first step towards gay families assuming parental rights.

But Mitsotakis has fought back on the criticism, saying that they would listen to the views of the Church but ultimately “it is the state that legislates.”

“What we are going to legislate is equality in marriage, which means the elimination of any discrimination based on sexual orientation,” he said in an interview with country broadcaster ERT. “It is not something radically different from what applies in other European countries.”

The measure is also opposed by right-wing parties in parliament.

Opinion polls suggest Greeks are evenly divided on the issue of same-sex marriage, but opposed to extending full parental rights to gay or lesbian couples.

The full details of the government's proposal are expected to be released within the coming days. Once that happens, it would take several weeks for it to come to parliament for approval.

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