Gender bill puts more pressure on government


The fate of the gender identity bill that will be put to a vote on Tuesday in Parliament appeared to be hanging in the balance on Monday evening as MPs of the junior coalition partner joined opposition parties to voice their opposition. 

Dissenters from the coalition partner, Independent Greeks (ANEL), said their opposition to the bill, which aims to grant Greeks the right to decide their own gender identity, stems from the fact that this right will also be given to people as young as 15. 

And with New Democracy announcing it will vote against and Democratic Alignment on the verge of jumping ship as well, the government appeared to be on the ropes. 

To make matters worse for ruling SYRIZA, five of its lawmakers also raised objections to the bill despite meeting earlier in the day with Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis in a bid to bridge the gap. 

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras also addressed the debate on Monday as he tried to get the five on board, but, apparently, to no avail. 

Furthermore, ANEL MP Dimitris Kammenos, who was earlier this year elected deputy parliamentary speaker, expressed his opposition to the bill. He argued it would also pave the way for child adoptions by same-sex couples. 

The decision by New Democracy – which submitted its own legislative proposal on Monday – not to vote for the bill was announced during the Parliament debate by lawmaker Nikos Panayiotopoulos. He said the party clearly understands the need to reform legislation on matters of gender identity, but said this must not be done in a “superficial” and haphazard way. 

“You have legislated erroneously and we are obliged to vote against,” he said, adding that the government’s bill could damage the country’s social fabric. 

The government’s legislative proposal, he said, creates new issues and is not orientated towards safeguarding the rights of transgender people.

Furthermore, the conservatives have repeatedly stated that they will not vote for legislation that is not backed by both parties of the coalition.

New Democracy’s proposal – among other differences with the SYRIZA bill – sets the minimum age to change gender identity at 18.

Given the scale of these objections, Tuesday’s vote is set to be a cliffhanger as ruling SYRIZA and centrist To Potami, which has said it will vote for the bill, can, in theory, muster 150 votes in the 300-seat Parliament. 

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias extended a personal invitation to Archbishop Ieronymos on Monday to attend the International Conference on Religious and Cultural Pluralism, which will be held again this year in Athens on October 29 and 30.

Kotzias told reporters that the meeting did not concern the bill in question. The Greek Orthodox Church is opposed to the proposed bill, saying it “defies customs and common sense.”