December 23, 2015 at 12:07 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Greek lawmakers approve same-sex civil partnerships law

Thanos Vlachogiannis, gay news, Washington Blade

Thanos Vlachogiannis of Thessaloniki Pride, left, sits in the Greek Parliament on Dec. 15, 2015. He is among the advocates in the European country who applauded the passage of a same-sex civil partnerships law. (Photo courtesy of Thanos Vlachogiannis/Thessaloniki Pride)

Greek lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved legislation that will allow same-sex couples to enter into civil partnerships.

The Associated Press on Tuesday reported the bill passed by a 193-56 vote margin.

The legislation will allow gays and lesbians to make medical decisions on behalf of their same-sex partner. They will also receive hospital visitation and inheritance rights.

The final draft of the measure on which parliamentarians voted did not contain a provision that would have extended adoption rights to same-sex couples.

Thanos Vlachogiannis of Thessaloniki Pride was among the LGBT rights advocates who were at the Greek Parliament on Tuesday.

“We are excited,” Vlachogiannis told the Washington Blade after the vote. “This is a new era for Greece.”

Officials with the Greek Orthodox Church condemned the bill.

The Associated Press reported that church bells in the town of Kalayryta on the Peloponnese Peninsula rang in opposition to the bill.

“Homosexuality is a deviation from the laws of nature,” Bishop Amvrosios told the Associated Press. “It is a social crime, a sin. Those who experience or support it are not normal people.”

Legislation ‘ends a period of backwardness’

The European Court of Human Rights in 2013 ruled that Greece’s civil partnership law was discriminatory because it was only available to heterosexual couples.

Syriza, a left-leaning party that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras heads, before it came to power in January said it would support the legal recognition of same-sex couples.

Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos in October told advocates who had gathered in Athens for ILGA-Europe’s annual conference that his government remained committed to passage of the civil partnership bill that had been introduced a few months earlier.

Ekathimerini, a Greek newspaper, reported that Tsipras said the vote “ends a period of backwardness and shame for the state, which led to our country receiving international rulings against it.”

“Instead of celebrating, though, maybe we should apologize to hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens that have been denied their rights all these years,” he said, according to Ekathimerini.

Joyce Hamilton, co-chair of ILGA-Europe’s executive board, in a press release her organization released after the vote described it as “the realization of years of political promises.”

“Successive Greek governments had talked about legally recognizing same-sex couples and I’m thrilled to finally see these positive words translated into meaningful change for couples in Greece,” she said.

Amnesty International also applauded the bill’s passage.

“This law means that the state acknowledges that same-sex relationships exist, and that they matter,” said Gauri van Gulik, the organization’s deputy director for Europe and Central Asia, in a statement. “It sends a message of hope not only to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, but to everyone fighting for justice and equality. The message is that Greece is becoming more tolerant.”

Greece — which has received three international bailouts since 2010 in an attempt to mitigate the impact of its debt crisis — is the 26th European country to legally recognize same-sex couples.

Gays and lesbians are able to marry in Iceland, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, France, Spain, Portugal, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

Slovenian voters on Dec. 20 overwhelmingly rejected a law that extended marriage rights to gays and lesbians in the former Yugoslav republic. A Vienna court on Monday ruled against five same-sex couples with children who are seeking marriage rights in Austria.

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

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