Greece becomes first Orthodox Christian country to legalize same-sex marriage


Greece on Thursday became the first majority Orthodox Christian country to legalize same-sex marriage — a watershed moment for the country’s LGBTQ community, which has long fought for visibility and rights in the shadow of the highly influential Greek church.

The bill also allows same-sex couples to adopt children and confers full parental rights on married partners, though it stops short of permitting gay couples to become parents through surrogacy, a limitation that has drawn criticism from rights groups.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on social media that Greece is “proud to become the 16th E.U. country to legislate marriage equality.” He called the step “a milestone for human rights, reflecting today’s Greece — a progressive, and democratic country, passionately committed to European values.”

On Feb. 15, Greece became the first majority Orthodox Christian country to legalize same-sex marriage. (Video: Julie Yoon/The Washington Post)

Thursday’s vote crossed party lines, with 176 of 300 lawmakers in the Hellenic Parliament voting in favor of the measure. Seventy-six rejected the bill, two abstained and 46 were not present.

The change comes despite staunch opposition from the socially conservative Greek church, which last year issued a statement saying that same-sex marriage does not maintain the traditional family structure and that children are not “pets for anyone who wants to feel like a guardian.”

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Orthodox Christianity is one of the world’s three major Christian traditions and is largely found in Europe. There are 14 Orthodox Christian majority countries in the world, according to 2017 data from Pew Research Center, many of which are former Soviet states such as Ukraine and Belarus.

During a Thursday debate on the bill in parliament, lawmaker Spyros Bibilas, who is openly gay, recalled being drawn to male statues at museums as a child and crying in private because he knew he had to hide his identity, local media reported.

He said these “secret tears” led him to fight “so that other children do not cry.”


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