Ηomosexual relationships are legally recognize in Greece

With 194 votes in favor the Greek parliament has finally given the green light for homosexual couples to enter into a civil union partnership.

Following a marathon debate, the body of the Greek parliament affirmed the relevant decree making it a formal law of the state.

This vote is undoubtedly a historic moment for the country as for the first time in the history of the nation, homosexual relationships are legally recognized.

Τhe Greek MP, Vasiliki Katrivanou: «Today is the day of the voting concerning the extended civil partnership for homosexual and heterosexual couples. Even though it consists of an elementary act and an basic right that has been continuously delayed, it is still at the same time a cross-section for human rights and equality before the law in our country. It is a reward for the social fights the LGBT society has gone through – a triumph against homophobia and obscurantism. I felt honestly touched hen a lesbian friend and activist told me two days ago, «It is an unbelievable feeling, even though you are already aware of it, you suddenly feel that you are an existing person, that you are visible, publicly recognised. I view myself differently because of the civil partnership. I view myself positively and not through all the negative social stereotypes. The extended civil partnership is a crucial step. However its importance will be judged from what is to come: whether we will move on soon to the next steps, such as civil marriage and legal recognition of gender identity for transgender people or not. We should fight for these rights, starting from tomorrow.»

The Essential Values

-The Promotion of private independence, namely respect of the private will of the parties. The parties may regulate their estate relations, but according to the principles of equality and solidarity, maintaining a greater degree of autonomy as this relates to their their assets, if they wish, even on hereditary issues. However, if they do not choose to do so, they retain full rights, proprietary and on inheritance.

-The need for protection of family relations and the consolidation of the principle of equality in interpersonal relations of the parties. The new law understands both parties as equal, but does not overlook the social reality that requires the protective intervention of the legislator. As a result, certain critical issues are regulated by mandatory rules. For instance, parties can not renounce participation in acquisitions, are entitled to claim a diet after the dissolution of the pact , etc.

– The new law seeks a balance between private autonomy and the need to protect family relations, based on principles of equality and solidarity. The law is in fact a contract, however there is a family relationship created between those who enter into it.

-The pact recognizes to the parties involved, rights which they did not previously have, so as to ensure the enjoyment of family life and respect for the principles of equality regardless of sexual orientation. As noted by the European Court of Human Rights, in the majority of the member states of the Council of Europe, people who enter a civil partnership obtain status similar to that of married couples and gain access to a variety of rights.

Organizations comment on the voting of the law:

George Kourogiorgos, Colour youth: «Today is a landmark day for the LGBTQ community in Greece. It may have taken longer than expected, but this is in any case the first important step to claiming equality in our country. As in the case of a baby, from the moment that we have been able to rely on our feet and take the first step, we commit that we are not going to stop here, but will continue to make steady progress. Let’s all together celebrate this victory, the result of long and systematic efforts. However, let us reevaluate our so far efforts and on the basis of the experience gained, let’s redesign our subsequent goals. The next step? But of course the legal recognition of gender identity! Specifically, we expect the pre-legislative Committee that will  draft the law for the institutional recognition of gender identity to resume its sessions. We aim at an institutional recognition of gender identity without conditions and accessible to all ages … «

Stella Belia, Rainbow Families: Without undermining the voting of the Bill as it provides a solution for key problems for many, ourselves as  lgbtq + parents are left with a bitter after taste… We remain hopeful that even at the last minute,  the Minister of Justice will be fair with our children and will not continue to deprive them of one of their  two parents,  by including the amendment proposed by the Ombudsman and submitted to the committee by Potami (and the Democratic Alliance?) for the parental responsibility and guardianship.  The first excuse of  the Secretary General – as heard on Parliament TV-for this very timid stance «was not in consultation and were not placed thereon by those who participated in this» we are not convinced as the suggestion of counsel – and ours – took place in the context of this consultation. The second excuse,  that whatever  has anything to do with children requires careful study and not individualized actions – position and stance with which we do not disagree with -apart from one point: from the first moment we were invited to discuss – almost eight months ago-we raised the issue of parental responsibility and have been campaigning on the subject for years. How much time does the Ministry and the political leadership need to review and study the matter?

Thanos Vlachogiannis, OLKE: Today is a historic day for the LGBTI society in Greece, a historic day for human rights. From today we are one step closer to full equality. It is a day that proves to all of us that many things can change in this country, provided that we all believe in change and try our best. The civil partnership pact, resolves many problems that same sex couples faced until today, it does however also shield them against social injustice and makes it smoother in the long term for them to be accepted as part of our society by those that have until now rejected them. With the experience gained with the process for the adoption of the Pact, we move stronger and bolder to the next step which is the legal recognition of civil marriage. From  tomorrow, I expect to see in the streets more same-sex couples go hand-in-hand, I am sure that as of today they regained a large part of their lost confidence.

First published, in Greek and English, on Antivirus Magazine, 23.12.2015.


ILGA – Annual Conference in Athens: “Many voices, One movement – Mobilising together for a just society”

Interview with Konstantina Kosmidou
The 19th Annual Conference of the ‘International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association’ (ILGA) took place in Athens, 28-31 October 2015. The theme “Many voices, One movement – Mobilising together for a just society” brought together activists and policy makers from 53 countries. ILGA is an international non-governmental umbrella organisation comprising over 400 organisations from 45 European countries.
On the occasion of the Annual Conference, AnalyzeGreece interviewed Konstantina Kosmidou, Board Member of OLKE (Lesbian & Gay Community of Greece) since 2005, President for two years (2011-2013) and currently International Relations Officer.

What were the goals and the main theme of the 19th ILGA conference “Many voices, One movement” held in Athens this past week?
The ILGA-Europe 2014 conference dealt with the question of how to lead sustainable change for our communities, under the theme ‘MOVEment: leading sustainable change.’ The event triggered some great discussions:
–the need to develop a ‘shared grammar of values’ with mainstream society and make them part of popular culture,
–the need to build alliances with other (social) movements, including those working on gender issues,
–the need to rethink sustainability, especially where hostile, conservative and reactionary forces operate to undermine our work for greater legal and social recognition, or even chip away at successes already won.
We concluded that, for better or worse, the LGBTI cause has unintentionally become a symbol representing the kind of society we all want to live in. This fact has confirmed our belief that sustainable change can only be achieved by tackling hierarchies and asymmetries within our own movement. We must become the frontrunners of a much broader social justice movement.
The ground-breaking Maltese gender identity law. The lobbying efforts of marriage equality campaigners in Slovenia. Year after year, we have been fortunate enough to be encouraged by legal as well as political wins, and most importantly: social change. Such campaigns are exhilarating and exhausting in equal measure – we all know that. These gains should only strengthen our resolve to keep going and not cause us to ease off.
LGBTI activists are the driving force behind such impressive standard-setting developments. We must continue to support them in countries where equality battles still loom on the horizon. There are still many laws to change, many policies to be adopted, many hearts and minds to win over. Everyone has a role to play to maintain the momentum we have all built up together. This must happen on a proactive country-by-country basis and involve the entire LGBTI community.
Please, give us some more details.
In several parts of Europe, there is actually a growing sense of urgency to take action. More and more LGBTI human rights defenders are at risk on a daily basis. The legal and political gains of the past decade are under threat. The promise of LGBTI equality is fiercely threatened by the reaction of opposition groups. Action is needed because when negative public sentiment is allowed to expand it can set progress backwards, significantly backwards.
While we celebrate the progress made so far, we cannot and must not forget those within the LGBTI communities whose could be at risk of being “left behind”. We need to work to ensure that the legal, political and social change brought about by our actions is not change for some of us, but for all of us.
In short, now more than ever, we need more people to act strategically and effectively towards achieving our ultimate goal of equality for all LGBTI people.
Learning from our conversations in Riga, we plan to ask ourselves some challenging questions this year. Athens will provide the backdrop for discussions on how we can consolidate our victories and engage the entire movement. Our workshops and events will address the following topics:

· How can we make use of the European LGBTI movement’s emerging position as a flag bearer of human rights and democratic values to leverage positive change and rally new allies?
· How do we broaden the movement of supporters of equality, especially in the face of opposition groups?
· How can we find new allies to help respond to new threats and challenges?
· How can we reach out to rally new supporters of equality?
· How do we leverage growing public support for LGBTI equality to bring about lasting societal changes?
Unpack so we can repack – During this conference we will unpack the concept of mobilisation starting with advocacy work in our own communities all the way to changing public attitudes and involving our allies effectively. We want to explore what the key conditions for effective engagement are. We will be looking at what mobilisation means in different contexts and strengthen our movement’s ability to lead this work. This will lead us to reconsider some of our traditional methods of work, to take a critical look at the messages and narratives we use, to look into new strategies and update our “activist toolbox”.
Which are the main questions, according to your opinion?
We will be asking ourselves –the movement, allies and supporters– many questions, such as:
· How can wider mobilisation in our societies be a key factor in achieving the change we desire?
· How do we engage effectively in public and political debates when the landscape of the battlefield has changed?
· How do we strengthen our movement’s ability to mobilise, keeping in mind the many challenges that we all face at the same time?
· When we talk of mobilisation, how can we make sure that our work truly benefits from the rich diversity of our communities, and gives back to them? If we truly want to bring about successful change, we need to make sure that all people are included and all our needs are addressed.
· What are the best ways to engage with our new allies in this context? What are our commonalities? And what are the challenges we face with them?
Can you provide us with a brief “profile” of the conference (Participants, organizations, countries, speakers etc)?
The participants were 500 in total from all over Europe and other continents, including Africa, America and Asia. Speakers like: Mrs Elke Ferner, Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, Mr Randy W. Berry, U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy for Human Rights of LGBTI Persons, Mr Yiorgos Kaminis, Mayor of Athens, the minister of Justice of the Greek government, Members of all the political parties, the party leader of Enosi Kentroon Mr Leventis, and many members of the European parliament, were some of the fantastic speakers of the conference.
What were the issues that emerged from the conference?
What the local hosts contributed to the conference was the diversity in all matters. For the first time in an ILGA-Europe conference, there was a silent room for religious LGBTI people, disabled LGBTI groups, sign language interpreters, a large trans community, all kinds of diversity. This was the message that we wanted to pass on, of a diverse but strong united voice for our rights, especially the freedom of expression among our community.
Have any demands/course of action been defined for the time to come?
Diversity and the role of politicians for the LGBTI agenda, and, also, establishing relations and lobbying with the state.
As far as Greece is concerned, we would like a comment on the debate that took place in the conference among the representatives of the political parties (SYRIZA, ND, PASOK, DIMAR, To Potami, Center Party).
It was a difficult but promising debate. It was the first time parties of the Parliament were together in a debate over LGBTI issues, with the minister of Justice Mr Paraskevopoulos present. They all signed a pledge where they promise to vote in favour of civil partnership and law changes on issues like parenting rights, transgender recognition etc. It was the first time that so many parties agreed to the LGBTI agenda. Also, the minister of Justice promised to introduce the new law for civil partnership, which includes recognition of same-sex couples, for public deliberation at the beginning of November, which he did.
In the context of the current situation in Greece, what are the goals for the Greek division of ILGA in the near future?
Push the LGBTI agenda to law and policy makers, lobby politicians, open the floor to every diverse LGBTI group, and ensure a new law for civil partnership and a new law against hate crimes and hate speech.
Κonstantina Kosmidou is a board member (since 2005) and currently International Relations Officer of OLKE. From 2011 to 2013 she was the president of OLKE.
More details on ILGA-Greece: http://www.ilga-europe.org/tags/greece
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