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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 5, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 06
Athens mayor signs first same-sex civil partnership agreement
Section One
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Athens mayor signs first same-sex civil partnership agreement

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis signed the first same-sex civil partnership agreement in Greece's history on January 25.

Civil partnerships were opened to same-sex couples in December, when the leftist SYRIZA party government fulfilled its campaign promise to give legal protections to Gay and Lesbian couples.

'As the first day that the law is being implemented, today is very important for civil rights in Greece and the country's compliance with international reality,' Kaminis said during the signing ceremony at Athens City Hall.

On Twitter, the mayor referred to 'a significant day for rights in our country.'

Civil partnerships confer most of the rights of marriage but do not require couples to get the blessing of the Greek Orthodox Church, as marriage would. The Church is opposed to same-sex relationships.

Many opposite-sex couples also choose civil partnerships over marriage. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, for example, is in a civil partnership with his long-time spouse Peristera Batziana.

In 2008 Anastasios Aliferis, mayor of the island of Tilos, married two same-sex couples, one Gay and one Lesbian. Those marriages were challenged in court by conservative allies of the Greek Orthodox Church and finally annulled.

In 2013 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that excluding same-sex couples from legal recognition was discriminatory and in violation of Greece's obligations as a signer of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The government at that time, led by the socialist PASOK party, announced it would legalize same-sex civil partnerships, but it soon became preoccupied with Greece's economic problems and never drafted the necessary legislation.

SYRIZA eventually introduced a bill after it became the governing party early in 2015. The measure passed with full support of SYRIZA and members of parliament from smaller, center-left parties. Members of the main opposition party, the conservative New Democracy party, and some members from SYRIZA's coalition partner, Independent Greeks, voted against it.

Kaminis was elected mayor in 2010, running as an independent against a SYRIZA candidate. Prior to his election he served as ombudsman, charged with helping Greek citizens who had human rights complaints against government bodies.

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