“We Are No Longer Invisible—Greece Is the First Orthodox Christian Country To Say Yes to Same-Sex Marriage

Fourteen countries have Orthodox Christian majorities. On February 15, Greece became the first of them to legalize same-sex civil marriage.

A bipartisan majority of 176 members of parliament approved the bill versus 76 nays, 46 absentees and two abstentions. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose government drafted the measure, called its passage “a milestone for human rights, reflecting today’s Greece—a progressive, and democratic country, passionately committed to European values.”

Former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras disagreed. “Same-sex marriage is not a human right … and it’s not an international obligation for our country,” he told parliament. “Children have a right to have parents from both sexes.”

The main opposition to the bill came from the Orthodox Christian Church. The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (Istanbul)—the mother church of the faith expressed its position in January: “Marriage is the union of man and woman under Christ … and the church does not accept the cohabitation of its members in any form other than marriage.”

Mitsotakis countered, “I want to be clear: We are referring to choices made by the state and not religious convictions … Our democracy requires that there cannot be two classes of citizens and there certainly cannot be children of a lesser god.”

As up to 90 percent of Greece’s population identify as Orthodox Christian, however, the impact of the mother church’s opposition to same-sex marriage was a wild card in the mix. As it turned out, the lead-up to the vote and the vote itself elicited only mild protests staged against the law—the strong rhetoric against it confined mainly to religious leaders and members of parliament such as far-right lawmaker Vassilis Stigas, who described the measure as “sick.” Its adoption, he said, would “open the gates of Hell and perversion.”

Though public opinion polls indicate that Greeks support the bill by a narrow margin, the issue itself is far less of a hot-button topic to the populace as the nation’s problematic high cost of living.

The bill grants full parental rights to married same-sex partners with children. But it bans gay couples from parenthood through surrogate mothers in Greece — an option currently available to women who can’t have children for health reasons.

“This took a long time to be adopted in our country … but at least it happened and that’s what is important,” said a man who only gave his first name, Nikolas. “We are no longer invisible.”

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