Greeks protest government crackdown on gay marriage

Mon Sep 29, 2008 1:22pm EDT
 
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ATHENS (Reuters) - Dozens of gays and lesbians protested outside parliament Monday against the conservative government's attempt to overturn Greece's first same-sex marriages.

Waving banners reading "These Weddings Are Valid," dozens of homosexual couples gathered in central Athens ahead of a court ruling due this week on the two marriages celebrated on the tiny Aegean island of Tilos in June.

The Justice Ministry has filed a legal suit to overturn the union of one gay and one lesbian couple after they took advantage of a loophole in Greek civil law that fails to specify gender in matrimony.

"We are here because we want equality," said Christina Neofotistou, 28, a designer. "These marriages were the first step, but this government wants to cancel it: instead they should be doing something for us."

The marriages drew strong criticism from the powerful Orthodox Church, which officially represents more than 90 percent of the 11 million-strong population.

While many European countries have established legislation recognizing gay marriage or same-sex partnerships, Greece's traditional society has preferred to turn a blind eye to homosexuality.

The Netherlands was the first EU country to offer full civil marriage rights to gay couples in 2001 and Belgium followed in 2003. Spain legalized gay marriage in 2005, despite fierce opposition from the Roman Catholic Church.

(Reporting by Renee Maltezou; writing by Daniel Flynn; editing by Keith Weir)

 
<p>A protester waves a rainbow flag during a protest outside the Greek parliament in Athens September 29, 2008. Dozens of gays and lesbians protested outside parliament on Monday against the conservative government's attempt to overturn Greece's first same-sex marriages. REUTERS/Yiorgos Karahalis</p>