Greece faces growing opposition from the Orthodox Church over plans to legalize same-sex marriage

Greece’s center-right government is speeding up its timetable to legalize same-sex marriage despite growing opposition from the powerful Orthodox Church.
Greece’s center-right government is speeding up its timetable to legalize same-sex marriage despite growing opposition from the powerful Orthodox Church.

Government officials said Wednesday that the draft legislation would be put to a vote by mid-February. Greece would become the first Orthodox-majority country to legalize same-sex marriage if the law passes.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, which heads Orthodox churches around the world, expressed its opposition to the same-sex marriage proposal.

“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,” the Ecumenical Patriarchate said.

It echoed a decision by the church’s senior bishops in Greece on Tuesday.

Metropolitan Bishop Panteleimon, a spokesman for the Greek Church’s governing Holy Synod, said that its written objections would be sent to all members of Greece’s parliament and read out at Sunday services around the country on Feb. 4th.

“What the church says is that marriage is the union of a man and a woman and that is the source of life,” he told private Skai television.

“The elders of our church are concerned with defending and supporting the family.”

Panteleimon said it was too soon to comment on the approach that the church would take toward the children of same-sex parents.

Conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who won a landslide reelection victory last summer, will likely need to rely on opposition party votes for the measure to be approved. He faces dissent from within the governing New Democracy party as well as from members of his own Cabinet.

“We are talking about something that is already in effect in 36 countries and on 5 continents. And nowhere does it appear to have damaged social cohesion,” Mitsotakis told his ministers in a televised statement Wednesday.

“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.”

Recent opinion polls suggest that Greeks narrowly oppose same-sex marriage, with conservative voters more clearly opposed. (AP)

More specifically, the same-sex marriage bill "seeks the equal treatment of all citizens," Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Wednesday during a cabinet meeting including among other issues court reforms and a Strategic Plan for Greeks Abroad.

Speaking of the bill, which was presented in greater detail by State Minister Akis Skertsos, Mitsotakis said it focused "on protecting children of homosexual parents that already exist; these children must have the same rights as all other children."

Mitsotakis noted that the recognition of same-sex marriages already exists in 36 countries and 5 continents, "without this showing that it harmed social cohesion and government harmony." He also expressed appreciation that the reform was discussed in low tones by society without extremisms. All viewpoints were heard, including voices that had never been heard before, like those of same-sex parents "who can finally sleep peacefully at night, without the fear that if anything happens to them their child will not end up with the other parent but end up at an institution."

He also underlined that the government's bill, to be tabled in parliament, "does not change the current state for surrogate motherhood, does not fundamentally expand it to same-sex couples, and it excludes the terms 'Parent no. 1' and 'Parent no. 2'. And that is because I want to stress that Greece will not become a laboratory of policies that are only applied in very few countries of the world."

The bill, he said, "adds rights to some without removing them from the many."

tags: Greece