ATHENS – Greece’s Supreme Court has annulled a same-sex marriage conducted in 2008 on the Aegean island of Tilos by the then-Mayor in what turned into a test case for gay rights that has seen them still unable to wed.
The judges upheld a previous order by a Rhodes prosecutor calling such nuptials illegal with the court ruling pointing to the Greek rule of law “which is considered to reflect the moral and social values and traditions of the Greek people, who do not support the legalization of marriage for homosexual couples.”
The court said that same-sex partners have the right to enter into a civil union as the Parliament under control of the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition passed, legislation which gives gay couples the same rights as heterosexual couples.
The couple who were unlawfully married were expected to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights with no guarantee that even if they win that Greece will obey as the country has a record of ignoring EU decrees it doesn’t like.
That court in 2013 had already ruled Greece’s exclusion of same-sex couples from civil unions was in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights but then-Greek Justice Minister Haralambos Athanasiou didn’t care.
“This is a country that respects traditions, respects the nature of man and (same-sex) marriage is simply not possible, at least under this government and this ministry,” Athanasiou said then. “I will not discuss it; I will not even consider it,” he said.
He said that he has set up a committee to review the laws governing marriage in Greece and to explore the terms of civil unions.
“We are limiting ourselves to issues concerning social security insurance, pensions and inheritances,” he said, adding that the “consequences” of common law marriage need to be “considered.”
“Will we go as far as adoption and custody matters?” he said. With regards to the European court decision, Athanasiou said that, “We cannot turn a blind eye,” although he did.
He added that, “We need to look at (the issue) from a religious, political and societal perspective.”
After the 2008 marriage, then-Justice Minister Sotirios Hatzigakis declared the action invalid.
When SYRIZA introduced the civil unions for same-sex couples bill in December, 2015, the head of the Greek Church, Archbishop Ieronymos called homosexuality “a diversion from life”, while Metropolitan Anthimos declared that “Not even animals have such dispositions” as he spit his outrage.
During the debate, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras apologized to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community for what he said was the discrimination they had faced but didn’t push for a same-sex marriage bill for them.