Greece Makes History: Parliament Votes to Extend Marriage and Adoption Rights to Same-Sex Couples

Greece has historically been deeply influenced by the Orthodox Christian religion, which plays a significant role in shaping societal norms and values. The Orthodox Church holds considerable influence in Greek culture, politics, and public life, and its teachings often reflect traditional values regarding marriage, family, and social conduct.

As a result, societal attitudes towards LGBTQ+ rights in Greece have been mixed, with conservative views often prevailing. LGBTQ+ individuals have faced discrimination and marginalisation, and there has been resistance to legislative changes that promote LGBTQ+ equality, particularly from conservative and religious groups.

The tension between tradition, shaped by history and religion, and the push for international, rights-centred values is a complex issue faced by many countries. While tradition and religious beliefs hold cultural significance and provide a sense of identity and continuity, they can also present challenges when they conflict with evolving societal norms and universal human rights principles.

However, Greece has made notable strides towards LGBTQ+ rights in recent years. The extension of marriage and adoption rights to same-sex couples, as well as other legislative reforms aimed at equalising rights, signify progress towards a more inclusive society.  The Prime Minister Mitsotakis’s efforts to modernise Greece, despite facing opposition from within his own party and the Orthodox Church, demonstrate a shifting social landscape and a willingness to challenge traditional norms.

In a groundbreaking decision, Greece’s parliament has embraced progress and equality by extending marriage and automatic parental rights to all of its 10.5 million citizens, while also granting adoption rights to same-sex couples. The historic vote on Thursday positions Greece as the first majority Christian Orthodox country in the region to take such a progressive step, challenging prevailing conservative norms.

As lawmakers convened in Athens on February 15, 2024, to address a historic LGBTQ rights bill, a powerful symbol of solidarity unfolded outside the Greek Parliament. A person hung an LGBTQ pride flag on a light pole, signifying support for the momentous occasion.

This legislative milestone, spearheaded by the Prime Minister signifies a significant departure from traditional conservative values. Despite initial resistance within his own party and opposition from the influential Greek Orthodox Church, Mitsotakis, who hails from a conservative background, championed the cause of LGBTQ rights as part of his broader efforts to modernise Greece.

The parliament’s decision, extending marriage equality and adoption rights, was achieved with support from unexpected quarters. Stefanos Kasselakis, leader of the leftist Syriza party and openly gay, rallied his lawmakers to endorse the bill. Nikos Androulakis, leader of the socialist Pasok, and two smaller leftist parties also backed the proposal, highlighting a collaborative effort across party lines.

However, some activists argue that the new law falls short in one aspect—it does not permit male same-sex couples to have children through surrogacy in Greece. This restriction, viewed by some as a sensitive issue across Europe, prompts further discussions about the scope of LGBTQ rights and family planning.

Drawing inspiration from the experiences of leaders like David Cameron in the UK, Minister of State Akis Skretsos emphasised that incorporating more people into the institution of marriage aligns with conservative values. Cameron’s advocacy for same-sex marriage, despite initial resistance, eventually resulted in its legalisation in 2014, becoming one of his proudest achievements.

The European Union is striving to standardise legislation on LGBTQ rights across its member states. Greece’s progressive stance adds to the growing recognition of same-sex marriage within the EU, with 16 out of 27 member states now embracing marriage equality.

The evolution of LGBTQ rights in Greece traces back to 2008 when civil union pacts were introduced, initially excluding LGBTQ individuals. It took until 2015, under Alexis Tsipras’s left-wing government, for civil partnerships to be open to all Greeks. While these unions granted certain rights, including next of kin status, they did not automatically confer the same adoption and parental rights as marriage.

Prime Minister Mitsotakis, during his first term, accelerated the pace of change in Greece by introducing various reforms, such as lifting the ban on homosexual men donating blood. Greece’s progress in LGBTQ rights is reflected in its improved rankings on global indices tracking legal and policy advancements for the LGBTQ community.

This historic decision not only marks a significant leap forward for LGBTQ rights in Greece but also positions the country as a beacon of progress within the European Union, challenging conservative norms and fostering a more inclusive society.

It’s essential for countries to adapt to changing global perspectives and standards, particularly concerning human rights, to foster inclusivity, diversity, and social progress. Embracing international, rights-centred values doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning tradition or religious beliefs; rather, it involves finding ways to reconcile tradition with modern principles of equality, justice, and respect for individual rights.

In navigating this balance, dialogue, education, and inclusive policy-making processes are crucial. By engaging in open discussions, promoting awareness, and enacting laws that protect and uphold the rights of all citizens, including LGBTQ+ individuals, countries like Greece can move towards a more harmonious coexistence of tradition, religion, and international human rights standards.

Ultimately, the goal is to create societies where tradition and modernity can coexist, where diversity is celebrated, and where every individual is treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their background or identity. Achieving this balance requires a concerted effort from governments, civil society, religious institutions, and individuals alike, but it’s a worthwhile pursuit in building a more just and inclusive world.

Cynthia Cortés Castillo, Digital Marketing Executive

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