Opposition MPs helped the government pass with a wide majority legislation on Tuesday night that grants gay couples full marriage rights even though it did not have the full support of coalition partner Independent Greeks.
Three of the nine Independent Greeks deputies voted for the legislation, which was deemed a significant step toward the country aligning its civil rights with other European Union members. However, the bill passed thanks to the support it received from PASOK, Potami and the Union of Centrists, as well as some New Democracy MPs.
A total of 194 lawmakers voted for the bill and 55 voted against. Just 19 of 75 New Democracy deputies casted their ballot in favor of the legislation.
The conservative party decided not to back the legislation after feeling that its objections to some aspects of the law had not been satisfied. New Democracy had, for instance, asked for the law to make it clear that same-sex couples would not be allowed to adopt children.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said the passing of the bill helped defend people’s right to equality “regardless of gender and sexual orientation.”
“This ends a period of backwardness and shame for the state, which led to our country receiving international rulings against it,” he said. “Instead of celebrating, though, maybe we should apologize to hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens that have been denied their rights all these years.”
Tsipras said that the approval of same-sex civil partnerships, which was fiercely opposed by some Greek Orthodox bishops, showed that “Greek society is not as fearful and mean as some people wish to present it.”
“We have a long distance to cover to continue the daily struggle against every type of discrimination, especially against racism,” he said. “This struggle needs democratic forces and social movements to come together, it requires constant vigilance and political courage so we do not let darkness win.”
The law passed last night seeks to address omissions in 2008 legislation that recognized cohabitation for unmarried, but not gay, couples. In 2013, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that excluding same-sex couples from the cohabitation pact was discriminatory.
The latest legislation grants same-sex couples the option of having civil partnerships, which would offer them full marriage rights but not necessarily the right to adopt children.