Greece Parliament votes on legalizing same sex marriage.com2F632F982F56528473930a6ffe49063eb3eef82F6b98ab44300242f69fc4610f3ce83bdd

Greece: Parliament votes on legalizing same-sex marriage

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's parliament will vote Thursday to legalize same-sex civil marriage for the first time in an Orthodox Christian country and despite opposition from Greece's influential church.

As MPs debated the bill for a second day, opinion polls suggest that most Greeks narrowly support the proposed reform. The issue has not sparked deep divisions in a country more concerned about the high cost of living.

The landmark bill from Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' center-right government is supported by four left-wing parties, including the main opposition Syriza.

That would ensure her a comfortable majority in the 300-seat parliament. Several majority and left-leaning lawmakers are expected to abstain or vote against the reform — but not enough to derail the bill. Three small far-right parties and the Soviet-inspired Communist Party have rejected the bill.

A protester holds a holy icon during a rally against same-sex marriage in central Syntagma Square in Athens, Greece, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. Lawmakers begin a debate on Wednesday on a groundbreaking bill to legalize same-sex marriage Make Greece the first Orthodox Christian country to do so.  (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)Stella Belia, 57, leader of the same-sex family support group Rainbow Families, is seen before an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, in Athens, Greece.  Lawmakers are expected to vote to legalize same-sex marriage despite fierce opposition from the country's powerful Greek Orthodox Church.  (AP Photo/Michael Varaklas)

Supporters and opponents of the bill have announced plans to hold separate meetings outside Parliament later on Thursday.

At the start of the two-day debate on Wednesday, State Minister Akis Skertsos argued that most Greeks already accepted the idea of ​​same-sex marriage.

“We don’t decide on changes in this chamber,” he said. “It has already happened… Society is changing and developing without the need for parliamentary approval.”

The bill would give married same-sex partners with children full parental rights. But it excludes gay couples from parenting through surrogates in Greece – an option currently available to women who cannot have children for health reasons.

Ruling New Democracy lawmaker Maria Syrengela said the reform would address a long-standing injustice for same-sex couples and their children.

“And let's think about what these people went through spending so many years in secret and mired in bureaucratic processes,” she said.

Polls show that while most Greeks support same-sex weddings, they also oppose expanding parenthood through surrogacy to male couples. Same-sex civil partnerships have been allowed in Greece since 2015. However, this only gave legal guardianship to the biological parents of the children in these relationships, leaving their partners in a bureaucratic limbo.

The greatest resistance to the new bill comes from Greece's traditionalist church, which also opposes civil marriages for heterosexual people.

Church officials focused their criticism on the bill's impact on traditional family values ​​and argued that potential legal challenges could lead to future expansion of surrogacy rights to gay couples.

The head of Greece's Orthodox Church, Archbishop Ieronymos, suggested on Wednesday that the vote should be conducted by roll call. This would allow voters to see exactly how their lawmakers voted.

This will definitely happen after applications were lodged later in the day by far-right parties and – independently and for different reasons – Syriza. The main opposition leader, Stefanos Kasselakis, who is gay, has threatened disciplinary action against any Syriza lawmaker who does not support the bill.

Church supporters and conservative organizations have staged small protests against the proposed law, and members of far-right groups have called for a demonstration outside Parliament later Thursday.

Politically, the same-sex marriage law is unlikely to harm Mitsotakis' government, which was easily re-elected last year after winning a majority of the centrist vote.

More challenging are ongoing protests by farmers angry at high production costs and strong opposition from many students to the planned abolition of the state's monopoly on higher education.

Still, parliament is expected to pass the university law later this month, and opinion polls suggest most Greeks support it.