04/06/2008 12:13 - (SA)
Athens - The mayor of the tiny Dodecannese island of Tilos was charged on Wednesday after conducting Greece's first ever same-sex weddings in defiance of a prosecutor's ban, reports said.
Mayor Tasos Aliferis performed the civil ceremonies for two couples, one gay and one lesbian, shortly after dawn on Tuesday before hundreds of witnesses that included members of the countries gay and lesbian community, journalists and island residents.
Defying the country's justice minister, he was later charged with breach of duty by a prosecutor on the nearby island of Rhodes, under the jurisdiction of which Tilos falls.
The charge carried a maximum five-year prison sentence.
The ceremonies were conducted after a lesbian organisation in Greece said it had discovered a loophole in a 26-year-old civil marriage law that would allow gays to marry legally.
The group, OLKE, said a 1982 law legalising weddings and civil ceremonies referred only to participating "persons", without specifying gender.
The justice ministry recently introduced civil partnership legislation granting legal rights to unmarried couples, but gays were not included in the law.
Gays were protected under Greek anti-discrimination laws, but gay groups complained they still faced widespread discrimination, both in public and at work.
Greece's powerful Orthodox Church was staunchly opposed to granting gays legal rights and accepting common-law marriages.
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