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All That Is Missing from Greece's New Civil-Partnership Legislation for Same-Sex Couples

The Greek Ministry of Justice just proposed a law that would recognise same-sex civil partnerships. We spoke to Greek gay rights activists about their concerns.

Photo by Daphne Kokot

This article originally appeared on VICE Greece

Yesterday, the Greek Ministry of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights proposed a new law that would recognise same-sex civil partnerships for the first time ever in Greece. This is obviously great news for the Greek LGBTQ community, who over the last few years have suffered extreme bullying from members of the Greek Orthodox Church, rigth wing organisation Golden Dawn and even some MPs. Even though the plan seems positive, some gay rights activists have some concerns.

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The bill – now submitted to the Greek Parliament – is expected to be put to a vote in July, which gives different organisations a window of opportunity to propose improvements.

Earlier this year, the Greek office of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (GHM) submitted an action to the European Court of Human Rights because of the exclusion of civil partnerships. In a statement to VICE, their Department of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity said:

"A civil partnership plan that makes no distinction between heterosexual and same-sex couples is obviously a positive development. It means that Greece will be in compliance with the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. We are, however, aware that the proposed draft is very similar to earlier failed drafts made by previous governments. Unfortunately, the document does not recognise unions made by foreign authorities. Even if this legislation is pushed through, Greece is still far behind many other democracies, most of which have now legislated for same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples who are married or in a civil partnership."

Photo by Giorgos Moutafis

I contacted some couples who had previously appealed their civil union caseto the European Court of Human Rights to ask them how they felt about this new bill. I talked to Alkis and Michael who were married abroad. Namely, the new bill won't recognise their marriage in Greece.

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"The proposed law is clearly positive. Fingers crossed it moves ahead and gets passed but I don't ave my hopes too high up. We've seen it all before. I'm not a lawyer and will obviously need to read the proposal thoroughly before I form any real opinion. My initial thought is that I would prefer it, if it didn't require a presidential decree to be implemented. I feel like that could hold it back," Alkis said.

He went on: "Preventing equal access to marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples only confirms how biased the Greek state actually is. A supposedly radical government should, in the year 2015, be willing to do more. Especially given the recent Irish referendum. We got married in England, so we are going to attempt to have our marriage recognised here in Greece. Another setback of this new law is that it doesn't really say whether or not it will, in fact, recognise these unions. It seems to have been written on the fly even though it's been discussed for a long time."

Sakis and Panos are also among the couples who intend to make an immediate application for civil partnership as soon as the legislation is adopted.

"The draft law is definitely heading in the right direction but lawyers have told us that it looks a little sloppy in places. Let's see what shape it's in when it gets to a vote. Even if it eventually passes, our appeal to the European Court of Human Rights still stands. I mean, the negative discrimination of recent years doesn't just disappear," Sakis said.

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"We were really happy when we saw the draft. It's a historic moment for the Greek LGBTQI community. It was good to see that it wasn't all just about recognising same-sex civil partnerships, but also included things like insurance, pension and even inheritance," George Kourogiorgas, Communications Manager for NGO Colour Youth told us.

"There's still room for improvement, of course. The fact that the new legislation doesn't mention anything about adoption or parenthood is quite important. Same-sex families exist and it's strange not to recognise that. We also consider it important that a provision for the recognition of gender identity be applied immediately. Overall, I think the most worrying issue is that we have to demand for Greece to recognise these things in 2015. Especially in a time when homophobic and transphobic attacks are on the rise."

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