Gay marriage recognized in Greece after decades of struggle


ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Years before she started her own family, Stella Belia was tirelessly campaigning for legal recognition. Her fight may finally end this week – just months before her twins’ 17th birthday.

Greek lawmakers are expected to legalize gay marriage in a rare showdown in a vote in parliament on Thursday cross-party cooperation,

Approval would make Greece the first Orthodox Christian The move would come as the country removes several legal barriers for same-sex couples who already have or want to have children.

“Ever since I found out who I am, I’ve been fighting for it,” says Beliya, a 57-year-old drama teacher with a husky voice and a light laugh.

“And it’s such a relief to say that we finally made it,” she said. “But fighting for something that is an obvious right is very tiring – suffering for something that has been taken for granted by other people – and having to fight very hard to get it.”

Belia separated from her female partner when her sons were 11, but she considers her a second mother to the boys.

Although civil partnerships were extended to same-sex couples in Greece about a decade ago, currently only biological parents of children in those relationships are recognized as legal guardians.

Children’s rights issues, including the publicized plight of cancer survivors in homosexual relationships, helped sway public opinion in favor of the bill which was sponsored by the conservative government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

But there was a strong reaction from the country’s Orthodox Church also. Representing Greece’s dominant faith, the church argues that the marriage bill would confuse parental roles and weaken the traditional family.

The church petitioned MPs to reconsider in a public appeal read at Sunday services.

Several prominent bishops have taken a tough stance, warning that they will refuse to baptize children of gay couples. They formed alliances with far-right political parties and conservative groups to hold public demonstrations.

Protester Chara Giannaktonaki said she felt compelled to join a rally held in front of parliament last Sunday.

“Every minority already has its rights guaranteed. There is no issue. They don’t need (gay) marriage. They want to desecrate everything that is sacred in Greece: our Church, our families and our children,” she said. “But children are the danger line and we will never accept that.”

The Mitsotakis government faces dissent among conservatives over the bill and will need the support of the centrist and leftist opposition to get a minimum of 151 votes in the 300-member parliament.

Dimitris Mavros, managing director of market research firm MRB Hellas, said the timing of the bill appeared to be carefully calculated: supporting a measure that boosts Mitsotakis’s centrist credentials but sparks controversy ahead of EU-wide elections. Is likely to increase. In June.

Greeks have seen a sharp rise in financial anxiety in 2024, Mavros said, with their concerns reflected in recent strikes and ongoing farmers’ protests.

“I think the farmers’ (protest) and the issues of high prices – and the impact on people’s wallets – are going to outweigh the issue of same-sex couples,” he said. “We’ll probably just deal with this peacefully.”

Chrissa Gkotsopoulou and Elena Cotsifi, both engineers, told their family and colleagues for years that they were roommates and only came out as a couple after moving to England for work in 2015.

They now have a young daughter, Ariadne, and all three travel to Greece using their UK passports.

“We soon realized that England offered us possibilities as a couple that we had never imagined before.” Kotsifi, 38, said. “We can be ourselves.”

They flew to Athens over the weekend to celebrate the bill’s expected approval, and said that for the first time in nearly a decade, they now see returning home as a possibility.

He is expected to join activist Belia and others in the public gallery of Parliament on Thursday night and the ceremonies that follow.

“If there is a place for us (in parliament), we would like to go,” Gotsopoulou said. “We feel happy, pleased and proud that Greece is moving towards the right side of history.” ___ Theodora Tongas in Athens contributed.


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