Test for Greek marriage law as mayor agrees to same-sex ceremony

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Tilos many not be the best-known island in the Aegean Sea, but its mayor has made a bold move to put it on the map.

Tassos Alfieries has offered to perform Greece’s first gay wedding, after two men announced their intention to wed in a newspaper notice.

Lesbian and gay rights activists argue that the law does not explicitly proclaim a civil union must take place between a man and a woman, and there were reports in March that a lesbian couple intended to get married.

Now, in the light of more speculation that the law does not exclude same-sex couples, a gay couple took the first official step toward marriage by taking out a newspaper announcement.

The mayor of Tilos, which has a population of less than 600, has offered to perform the civil ceremony.

Greek authorities are already considering adopting a law that would allow same-sex couples to be recognised by a civil ceremony.

The Greek Justice Ministry pledged to establish a working group on the rights of gay couples living together, which would “analyse all aspects of the issue, international practice and the existing domestic legal and social framework.”

The New Democracy-led government is expected to introduce legislation later in the year that will offer several rights to unmarried couples.

The Minister of Justice has announced to the media that the government is against discrimination and will therefore include same-sex unions in the legislation.

The announcement has caused anger in the Greek Orthodox Church.

Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki said that such a decision would degrade the human species and “make them equal to animals.”

However, Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens has distanced himself from the Holy Synod’s stance on the issue of cohabitation between unmarried couples saying that the Church “should be more open-minded and less moralistic.”

The Greek government is hoping new legislation will align with similar laws throughout Europe.

The government of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis remains opposed to same-sex marriage.

A survey published on December 2006 showed that 16% of Greeks surveyed support same-sex marriage and 11% recognise same-sex couple’s right to adopt.

These figures are considerably below the 27-member European Union average of 44% and 33% respectively and place Greece in the lowest ranks of the European Union along with Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus.

Homosexuals in Greece are still seeking a greater voice within their country in recent years, which culminated in the first Gay Pride parade in 2005.