Greece becomes first Orthodox Christian country to legalize same-sex marriage

Greek Parliament Greek Parliament Building in Athens, Greece. | Credit: Andrey Starostin/Shutterstock

Greece this week legalized same-sex marriage at the national level, becoming the first officially Orthodox Christian country to do so. 

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on social media on Thursday that the measure had passed the Hellenic Parliament and that Greece was “proud to become the 16th [European Union] country to legislate marriage equality.” 

“This is a milestone for human rights, reflecting today’s Greece — a progressive and democratic country, passionately committed to European values,” Mitsotakis said. 

Just over a majority of lawmakers — 176 of 300 — voted in favor of the measure, while 76 rejected it. Several dozen more were not present and two lawmakers abstained. 

Greece is the first country with Orthodox Christianity as its official religion to recognize same-sex marriage. The law also permits same-sex couples to adopt children.

The country had for years already extended some rights to cohabiting same-sex couples such as employment benefits.

The Greek Constitution stipulates that “the prevailing religion in Greece is that of the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ.” 

“The Orthodox Church of Greece, acknowledging Our Lord Jesus Christ as its head, is inseparably united in doctrine with the Great Church of Christ in Constantinople,” the constitution says, “and with every other Church of Christ of the same doctrine, observing unwaveringly, as they do, the holy apostolic and synodal canons and sacred traditions.”

The Holy Synod of the Church of Greece had previously come out against the proposed legislation, saying in a statement last month that “the duality of the sexes and their complementarity are not social inventions but come from God.”

“Christian marriage is not a simple cohabitation agreement but a holy sacrament, through which the grace of God is granted to the communion relationship of a man and a woman with the aim of their common path to theology,” the synod said. 

“Obviously the state legislates,” the synod pointed out, “but this parameter neither deprives the Church of freedom of speech, nor relieves the Church of the duty to inform the faithful.”

With Greece’s vote, 21 European countries officially recognize same-sex marriage, while several more acknowledge some form of same-sex union.

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