Cabinet ratifies couples bill

A proposed cohabitation law that would grant heterosexual couples living together the same rights as married couples was approved yesterday by the Inner Cabinet, paving the way for its submission in Parliament. The brainchild of Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis, the draft bill would allow unmarried couples to acquire all the tax, insurance and social benefits currently only enjoyed by married couples simply by signing a standard notarial contract. Children born to unmarried couples – around 120,000 or 5 percent of the annual total of births – will also have all the rights, hereditary and otherwise, of children born to married parents. The bill was given the thumbs-up by top ministers in a session chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. Hatzigakis stressed that the law would only apply to heterosexual couples, apparently laboring the point to quell speculation about the possible extension of this right to homosexual couples following the civil wedding ceremonies of two gay couples on the island of Tilos last week. The Holy Synod of the Church of Greece, whose reaction to last week’s gay weddings had been somewhat muted, yesterday emerged from its session to express its opposition to gay unions, stressing that they go against the teachings of the Church. It was unclear if the announcement had been timed intentionally to coincide with the government’s debate of the cohabitation law. The bill drafted by Hatzigakis – titled «Reforms for the Family and Society» – is not restricted to the cohabitation law. Among its additional provisions is one that foresees a swifter process for issuing divorces. If approved, married couples who file for divorce will have to wait only two years for the decision to be final, as compared to four years now. Another provision aims to accelerate the process for would-be parents seeking to adopt children. Yet another aspect of the bill is geared toward protecting children from sexual abuse and issuing stricter penalties for convicted child molesters. Additional support would be granted to institutions offering support to children.