December 1, 2015 at 3:42 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Cyprus lawmakers approve civil unions bill
Cyprus, gay news, Washington Blade

(Image public domain)

Lawmakers in Cyprus on Nov. 26 approved a bill that would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions.

The Civil Partnership Bill passed in the Cypriot House of Representatives by a 39-12 vote margin.

Three parliamentarians abstained from the vote.

“Civil union is a crucial bill for Cyprus on many levels,” said ACCEPT-LGBT Cyprus, a Cypriot advocacy group, in a statement it released after the vote. “Mainly, it sets new foundations for the building of any future dialogue regarding human rights issues; but especially for being the first time ever that equality has been recognized in practice amongst all citizens, for matters regarding personal relationships, family and love.”

“Same-sex couples are no longer excluded from that; the bill in itself is a crucial attempt for their integration and acceptance,” it adds. “Once a state legally recognizes these rights, more and more members of our society will be in position to form proper family values, thus encouraging even more people to follow in their steps.”

ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradis also applauded the vote.

“Same-sex couples and their families are just as deserving of protection as their heterosexual friends and neighbors,” she said in a statement. “This is not about giving one group ‘special rights’ but about recognizing the wonderful diversity of families that live in Europe.”

The British Commission in Nicosia, the Cypriot capital, also celebrated the bill’s passage.

Cyprus is a divided island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

Cypriot lawmakers in 1998 decriminalized homosexuality. Northern Cyprus — formally known as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus — in January 2014 became the last European jurisdiction to legalize consensual same-sex sexual acts.

A law banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation took effect in 2004 before Cyprus joined the E.U. The country in 2013 amended its penal code to ban anti-LGBT discrimination.

Former President George Vassiliou was among the thousands of people who took part in the country’s first LGBT Pride parade that took place in Nicosia in 2013. A local advocate described the event to the Washington Blade as a “huge success,” despite reported clashes between police and Orthodox Christians who protested it.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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