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Greece legalizes same-sex marriage in a first for an Orthodox Christian nation

Greece will be the 16th European Union nation and the 35th country worldwide to legalize same-sex marriages.
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Greek lawmakers voted on Thursday to legalize same-sex marriage in a landmark decision that will make it the first Orthodox Christian country to do so.

The passage of the law — which was drafted by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ center-right government and had support from four left-wing parties — makes the nation the 16th within the European Union and the 35th worldwide to legalize same-sex nuptials, according to a tally from the LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign. Gay marriage is also legal in the territories of Taiwan and Greenland.

A cross-party majority of 176 lawmakers in the 300-seat Parliament voted in favor of the bill. Another 76 rejected the reform while two abstained from the vote and 46 were not present for 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 ahead of the evening vote.

Image: Members of the Greek government
Members of the Greek government applaud Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday after his speech during a debate in Parliament on same-sex marriage and adoption for same-sex couples bill.Angelos Tzortzinis / AFP - Getty Images

Greece has allowed civil unions for same-sex couples since 2015. However, that law did not permit same-sex parents to both claim legal guardianship over their children. The new law amends this, though it still would prohibit same-sex male couples from having children through surrogate mothers in Greece, an option available to single women and heterosexual couples who require surrogates due to health reasons.

The legalization of same-sex marriage has come under fierce criticism from the Greek Orthodox Church, which teaches that homosexuality is a sin. Conversely, some LGBTQ advocates have criticized the law, arguing that it does not go far enough.

Image: A person holds a transgender flag outside the Greek Parliament
A person holds a transgender flag outside the Greek Parliament in Athens on Wednesday.Aris Messinis / AFP - Getty Images

Thursday’s vote comes as the Orthodox Christian nation has loosened its regulations around LGBTQ people in the last decade.

Two years after the country passed the 2015 law allowing civil unions for same-sex couples, lawmakers passed legislation that would allow people to have their gender identity legally recognized. In 2022, Greek legislators also banned the widely debunked practice of conversion therapy nationwide, something that is still widely available in more historically progressive nations, including the United States.

The passage of same-sex marriage in Greece coincides with a precarious time for LGBTQ rights around the world.

While lawmakers in the United States enshrined same-sex marriage into federal law in 2022, state legislators have also proposed and enacted hundreds of anti-LGBTQ bills in recent years.

Late last year, Russia’s Supreme Court designated the “LGBT social movement” as extremist, which critics have argued effectively bans any organized advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ rights. Local reports have shown Russian police raiding gay bars in cities across the country since the court’s ruling.

And in Uganda, lawmakers enacted one of the world’s most punishing anti-LGBTQ laws, which would criminalize landlords who knowingly house LGBTQ people and impose the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.”

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