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23 May, 2024
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Church and far-right parties react to Greece's marriage equality proposal

New democracy MPs divided over Prime Minister's bold move

By Nektaria Stamouli

Marriage equality legislation has managed to rattle the entire spectrum of the political system in Greece’s conservative society, from the right to the left.

The issue has been dominating the political debate since Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis pledged to bring it forward, stirring an outcry from the church, the parties of the far right, but also dozens of ruling New Democracy MPs.

Last week, Mitsotakis said a government bill legalizing same-sex marriage will extend full parental rights to gay couples but will not allow for medically assisted reproduction through a surrogate.

According to Petros Ioannidis, a political analyst and the founder of the firm About People, Mitsotakis, in his televised interview addressing the Greek people last week, was not reaching out to those that are already convinced of the merits of the law, but sought to convince those in between with specific examples.

“This progressive legislation aims to strengthen the prime minister’s centrist profile. He has enough time until the European elections to absorb any counter-effects,” says Ioannidis.

“The big reforms in family law have always been made by the center-left and, as a rule, the center-right has been behind the developments,” Mitsotakis said in his interview with state broadcaster ERT.

He did not specify when the bill will be tabled, but government officials suggest it will come to Parliament by the end of February. He also clarified that he will not request party discipline on an issue that is a matter of “conscience,” calling on dissenting New Democracy lawmakers to abstain instead of voting against the legislation.

The proposed bill has caused friction within the ruling conservative party, with some 60 MPs currently leaning towards voting against or abstaining. The most prominent figure among the dissenters, former prime minister Antonis Samaras has decried the idea that MPs should abstain from the vote. Interior Minister Makis Voridis also said he is prepared to hand in his resignation.

But the issue also managed to divide the opposition.

Main opposition SYRIZA leader Stefanos Kasselakis, the first openly gay and recently married party leader in the country, announced that he would be imposing complete party discipline in favor of the legislation, even before this has been tabled.

Leading party figures openly disagreed with his haste. The issue caused a rift with one of his closest allies in the leftist party, the outspoken and influential Pavlos Polakis, who stated he does not want to support the bill because he will have a hard time defending among his traditionalist constituents in the mountains of Crete.

The position of the socialist PASOK party remains unclear, with its leader, Nikos Androulakis stating that the opposition should not be exploited to solve the ruling party’s internal divisions and that he “will not tie Mitsotakis’ shoelaces for him.” The party seems to be wavering between political tactics and principles.

“Having so many MPs being against the legislation and three small parties to his right, does not make life easier for him but Mitsotakis continues to set the political agenda,” Ioannidis says.

“The three parties to his right can’t do much because they remain fragmented, and on his left he has SYRIZA, which is still in a state of introspection, and PASOK that seems unable to exercise the appeal it needs on voters.”

At the same time, the LGBTQ+ community is eagerly awaiting the long-delayed legislation, even though there are concerns that it is not bold enough.

“I am deeply and profoundly happy that this is finally happening, and I guess it’s now going to happen quickly, as it’s not in the PM’s interest to head to the European elections with this issue still unresolved,” says gay rights activist and political scientist Grigoris Vallianatos.

He adds that Greece’s powerful church has adopted an “awkward attitude” by choosing to defend “an institution that is falling apart socially and economically.”

The fact that the bill will not allow parenthood for same-sex couples via a surrogate, will be annulled by the European courts, he argues. The government knows that but can go this far by itself.

“Those that oppose it cannot sincerely convince people that it’s all because they love children,” Vallianatos says.

Cyprus  |  lgbt  |  marriage  |  minister  |  government  |  Greece  |  politics

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