No longer invisible, Greek same-sex couples await landmark law

Some 4,000 people – brandishing Greek flags and crosses – protested against the bill in central Athens Sunday, responding to a call by Orthodox religious groups.Grigorios Grigorakis, a 57-year-old from Florina, northern Greece, came clutching an icon of the Virgin Mary, and told AFP that “Christ and the Gospel say that a family is a man, a woman and children.”Even Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who is personally championing the bill, was careful to stress last month that the changes would benefit just “a few children and couples”.The bill is expected to split Mitsotakis’ conservative New Democracy, with dozens of the party’s 158 lawmakers likely to oppose it or abstain.’Totally opposed’The Church of Greece — which has close ties to many government MPs — has said it is “totally opposed” to the reform, arguing that it “condemns” children to grow up in an “environment of confusion”.However, the bill is sure to pass with the support of the main opposition Syriza party, whose leader Stefanos Kasselakis is gay, the socialist Pasok party and other smaller parties.Mitsotakis has said existing assisted reproduction rules will not be modified to allow same-sex couples the right to surrogacy.Opinion polls indicate that a majority of Greeks support same-sex marriage but oppose surrogacy.’Never hide’Stella Belia, a schoolteacher in her fifties, said the prevalent attitude in Greece regarding same-sex couples was “the rule of silence.””We often heard: ‘It’s better to lie for your family and not say you’re in a relationship with a woman’. We should never have had to hide!” she asserted.”I’ve never felt strange in Greek society. I’ve never had any serious problems with my classmates. I’m white, Orthodox and heterosexual,” said Yannis.Greece had been condemned for anti-gay discrimination by the European Court of Human Rights in 2013, after gay couples were excluded from a prior civil unions law in 2008.While Stella admits the new legislation will be a “huge step forward for Greece,” it is still far from perfect.Same-sex couples will still not be able to use assisted reproduction or a surrogate mother, procedures reserved for single women or heterosexual couples who have trouble conceiving.

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