Saturday, May 31, 2008

Greek Gay Couples Vow to Wed Despite Opposition

Greece has long preferred to turn a blind eye to homosexuality rather than acknowledge gay rights.
Couples who have found a legal loophole to hold the first gay weddings in Greece are determined to go ahead with the services despite threats from prosecutors and the wrath of the powerful Orthodox church.
Taking advantage of Greek civil law not clarifying the gender of people wishing to marry, a gay and a lesbian couple are planning to marry on the tiny Aegean island of Tilos.

While many European Union countries have established legislation allowing gay marriage or "registered partnership" rights to same-sex couples, neither are allowed in Greece.
A senior Greek prosecutor said on Friday the mayor of Tilos would face criminal charges if he proceeded with the weddings.

"Neither civil law nor the country's constitution refer to gay marriages," Greece's supreme court prosecutor, George Sanidas, said in a statement. "If the Tilos mayor proceeds, he will have committed the criminal act of breach of duty."
But the Greek Gay and Lesbian Community (OLKE) said the weddings would go ahead as planned but would not reveal details for fear they may be disrupted.

"We were sure the Greek state would resist and we are prepared for a legal fight," OLKE's Evangelia Vlami told Reuters. "The two couples will go ahead and marry within 15 days and these weddings will help end discrimination."
"We will go ahead despite the difficulties," said Tilos mayor Tassos Aliferis told Reuters on Friday. "I still can't believe that someone would be prosecuted for defending human rights."

The Netherlands were the first EU country to offer full civil marriage rights to gay couples in 2001 and Belgium followed in 2003. Spain legalised gay marriage in 2005, despite fierce opposition from the Roman Catholic Church.
Greece, where the Orthodox church remains influential, has long preferred to turn a blind eye to homosexuality rather than acknowledge gay rights. The Orthodox church strongly opposes marriage between homosexuals.

"We view this phenomenon of homosexuality as an illness of the body," Metropolitan Bishop Chrisostomos told national NET TV. "The church can not accept the union of homosexuals."

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