COMMUNITY

Group action in the works over exclusion of same-sex marriage from civil unions

By Lina Giannarou

The Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights is about to be hit with a barrage of lawsuits by Greeks opposing a law on civil partnerships that excludes same-sex marriage following a ruling in November by the European body in favor of three gay couples who challenged the 2008 law on civil unions.

“Each case is different, but the claim is the same: to stop discrimination against homosexual couples,” Greek-English psychologist and author Leo Kalovyrnas, who is spearheading the campaign through the magazine 10%, told Kathimerini, adding that Greek Helsinki Monitor is preparing a group suit that already numbers 30 plaintiffs.

“Following the discussion that began with the most recent decision by the European Court, we have said that if the state did nothing to comply with the ruling we would take mass action,” said gay rights activist and Greek Helsinki Monitor's board chairman Grigoris Vallianatos, who was one of the first to challenge the law in 2009.

“It is a shame that a European country, which is in fact president of the European Union today, shows such disregard for a decision from the European Court,” said Vallianatos. “We understand that there is a crisis of values going on at the same time as the general crisis, but these are easy, cost-free details that make our lives better.”

On November 7 last year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Greece's exclusion of same-sex couples from civil unions was in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The court remarked that of the 19 states which have authorized some form of registered partnership other than marriage, Greece and Lithuania were the only ones to reserve it exclusively to that between a man and a woman, a press release said.

Judges said that gay people are just as capable as heterosexuals of entering into stable committed relationships. In addition, the court said that although there is currently no consensus among Council of Europe member states, a trend is emerging toward introducing forms of legal recognition of same-sex relationships.

The court held that Greece has to pay each of the six applicants in the case 5,000 euros in damages, according to the same press release.

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