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Débats publics sur le mariage homosexuel et l’opposition de l’Église orthodoxe

  • February 2024

On February 15, 2024, the Greek Parliament passed a new law titled "Equality in Civil Marriage, Amendment of the Civil Code, and Other Provisions," aimed at introducing civil marriage for same-sex couples. The legislation garnered 175 MPs voting in favour, 77 against, with the remainder abstaining from the voting process. Notably, 51 MPs from the ruling party (New Democracy) voted against or abstained, while 11 MPs from the socialist party (PASOK) also abstained. The law surpassed the 150-vote threshold due to support from the majority of opposition parties. However, the Communist Party and three extreme-right-wing parties, including the religious fundamentalist party of Niki (Victory), voted against the law. These parties viewed it as a direct assault on Orthodox tradition and values, and a significant affront to the Orthodox Church.

The debates surrounding this issue have deep roots in Greek society, dating back to the introduction of civil partnership in 2008, which initially only recognised couples of different genders. Following an appeal at the European Court of Human Rights and the court’s ruling condemning Greece for violating the rights of same-sex couples in 2013, the government expanded recognition to same-sex couples in 2015. Subsequently, calls for the introduction of civil marriage for same-sex couples grew louder, to address existing legislative gaps and promote equality. In 2021, the government presented a national plan for LGBTQI+ equality in Greek society, which included civil marriage. After the June 2023 elections, the reelected government initiated public discussions on same-sex marriage, with the Prime Minister affirming it as a necessary step for equality, leading to the preparation of legislation in the ensuing months. In February 2024, the draft legislation underwent public deliberation before its final vote in Parliament.

The government’s push for civil marriage stirred strong reactions from the Orthodox Church of Greece as well as from other Christian denominations (the Catholic Church of Greece and the Evangelical Church of Greece), though the latter’s responses were less vehement. On January 23, 2024, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church convened an urgent assembly solely focused on this issue. The Metropolitans unanimously opposed the proposed legalisation, arguing that the Orthodox Church opposes all forms of civil marriage, not just for same-sex couples, and views homosexuality as a sin. They criticised the removal by psychiatry of homosexuality from the list of psychiatric disorders and deemed the legislative development as contrary to bioethical norms, Christian values, and Greek family traditions. Additionally, the Orthodox Church disseminated a special announcement to its congregants, which was delivered in churches nationwide after Sunday mass on February 4, 2024. Furthermore, the Holy Synod sent a letter to all MPs on February 1, 2024, outlining the Church’s stance and urging them not to vote on the legislation. However, it’s worth noting that during the two-day discussions in the Parliament’s special committee, the Orthodox Church was not invited to express its position, despite proposals from several MPs.

Throughout the debates, the Archbishop and other Metropolitans called for a referendum to allow the public to decide and advocated for a roll-call vote to publicly identify MPs’ positions. Some members of the Holy Synod suggested appealing to the High Administrative Court (Council of State) against the law. Moreover, certain Metropolitans and priests warned that MPs voting for the law would not be welcomed in churches and they would be prohibited from entering, with some going as far as to suggest that "it would be better not to have been born if they vote for it". Concurrently, demonstrations took place in various parts of Greece, primarily in the capital, Athens, and Thessaloniki, with the participation of many monks, nuns, priests and theologians. On the day of the vote, people gathered outside Parliament displaying holy icons and Christian crosses, burning incense and praying against the law. The Prime Minister reiterated his main argument on the day of the vote, emphasising that the government proposes and enacts legislation, citing the biblical adage : "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God."

It should be noted that all existing opinion polls indicate widespread societal support for same-sex civil marriage, younger generations also are in favour of adoption by same-sex couples.

D 21 février 2024    AAlexandros Sakellariou

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