Greece first Orthodox Christian country to legalise same-sex marriage

Parliament votes 176-76 to pass the bill which also allows same-sex couples to legally adopt children.

Greece same-sex marriage
LGBTQ activists and supporters gather in front of the Greek parliament ahead of a vote on the bill which legalises same-sex marriage, in Athens [Louisa Gouliamaki/Reuters]

Greece has become the first Orthodox Christian country to legalise same-sex marriage despite opposition from the church and some politicians.

The measure was passed by parliament late on Thursday with 176 lawmakers from across the political spectrum voting in favour, and 76 against. Two abstained and 46 were not present.

The bill required a simple majority to pass in the 300-member parliament.

The vote, which came after two days of debate and weeks of public reactions, will now legally allow same-sex couples to adopt children as well.

People in favour of the vote celebrated and cheered on the streets of the capital, Athens, while those opposed, including many identifying with the Orthodox Church, rallied in protest. They displayed banners, held crosses, read prayers and sang passages from the Bible.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who had championed the legislation, faced resistance from within his own centre-right New Democracy party but was joined by politicians from other parties in the vote.

“People who have been invisible will finally be made visible around us. And with them, many children [will] finally find their rightful place,” Mitsotakis told lawmakers before the vote.

“The reform that we are legislating today … will make the life of some of our fellow citizens that much better without – and I emphasise this – taking away anything from the lives of the many,” said Mitsotakis, adding that this would add Greece to the list of 35 nations that have already legislated on same-sex marriage.

But as well as some public backlash, political opposition to the bill was considerable, with former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras among the top critics. Samaras, a former president of Mitsotakis’s New Democracy, had told parliament during debates that the “dangerous” law must not be passed.

Syriza, the main opposition left-wing party led by Stefanos Kasselakis, Greece’s first openly gay political party leader, backed the bill, despite the fact that it maintained it does not go far enough.

Syriza has criticised that the legislation still bans same-sex couples from becoming parents through surrogacy – something Kasselakis has said wants to pursue with his own partner.

Mitsotakis posted on X after the vote that Greece was “proud” to become the 16th country in the European Union to legislate marriage equality.

“This is a milestone for human rights, reflecting today’s Greece – a progressive, and democratic country, passionately committed to European values,” he said.

Greece had until now lagged behind some of its European neighbours in the 27-member bloc, due to opposition from a portion of the socially conservative nation, especially from the Orthodox Church.

It has now become the first country in southeastern Europe to have passed legislation legalising same-sex marriage.

“It’s a significant day for many families that from now on are visible,” said Vassilis Iosif, a 52-year-old artist. “It’s a tremendous decision from a government no one expected but they delivered. It’s a small step, but still a step. It’s a step for equality, justice and love.”

Greece same-sex marriage protest
Protesters against the bill pray in front of the Greek parliament, ahead of the vote, in Athens [Louisa Gouliamaki/Reuters]
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies