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Greek same-sex couples race to wed after historic vote

YOLANDA Kalantzi and Georgia Ampatzidou kissed when Greek lawmakers voted to allow same-sex civil marriages, then joined other couples making plans for their big days.

The historic bill that parliament approved overnight also allowed same-sex couples to adopt children – another big step as Ampatzidou can now legally adopt their son.

“When we heard that the bill passed we were deeply touched,” said Kalantzi, who with Ampatzidou had travelled 500 km (300 miles) to be inside parliament for the vote.

The couple have already booked a DJ and a photographer for their May wedding.

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“There is no return. I must have her,” she said of her bride-to-be. “I felt vindicated that I count,” Ampatzidou said of her legal right to adopt.

The vote makes socially conservative Greece one of the first Orthodox Christian countries to allow such unions.

“This is a milestone for human rights, reflecting today’s Greece – a progressive, and democratic country, passionately committed to European values,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said. He had urged lawmakers to pass the bill.

The law, celebrated by dozens of people on the streets of Athens but opposed by the Orthodox Church and many right-wing politicians, will take a few days to become official.

That has not stopped couples, many of whom have waited years to get married, from making the first steps.

At least one same-sex couple in Athens printed a notice in a newspaper in Athens on Friday with details if their wedding, officials said, a public announcement required for all marriages under Greek law.

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They contacted the municipality of Nea Smirni in Athens last week asking for the necessary supporting documents, Constantinos Anagnostopoulos, a vice mayor in charge of civil marriages in the municipality told state TV.

The vote was welcomed by dozens of countries.

“We celebrate this historic moment together with the people, parliament and government of Greece,” read a joint statement by 28 embassies in Greece, from the Netherlands to South Africa and Argentina.

DIVIDED OPINION

At home, the topic of same-sex marriage divides Greece, where the powerful Church and the right have long opposed reform. Residents of Athens expressed mixed opinions.

“The concept of family has collapsed, we have individual rights, but these cannot be institutionalised and affect everyone in society,” Eleni Parasi, a 50-year-old civil servant, said.

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Greece has lagged behind other EU countries on LGBT+ rights for decades but made a string of reforms in recent years.

In 2015, it allowed same-sex couples to form civil partnerships, and in 2017 gave legal recognition to gender identity. Two years ago it banned conversion therapy for minors aimed at suppressing a person’s sexual orientation.

Many in the LGBT+ community believe more needs to be done. The bill does not allow same-sex couples to use assisted reproduction methods. Surrogate pregnancies will also not be extended to LGBT people, though the bill recognises children already born through that method abroad.

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Still, the bill marked progress, 68-year-old pensioner Thimios Tsakonitissome said.

“Since they wanted to be legal and get married, they did well and the bill was passed … Let them be equal.”

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By RENEE MALTEZOU and ANGELIKI KOUTANTOU

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