Although Greece doesn’t have legalized same-sex marriage in June 2008, a mayor married the male same-sex couple of Themis Katsagiannis and Dimitris Tsambrounis, citing a legal loophole that technically allowed such a union. They and another lesbian couple were the first and only same-sex couples ever to enter a government-sanctioned same-sex marriage in Greece. But since then, the government has repeatedly tried to dissolve the Greek same-sex marriages. This week, the Greek government finally succeeded when the Greek Supreme Court ruled their marriages invalid.
How the Greek same-sex marriages happened in the first place
The Greek constitution doesn’t contain a legal definition of marriage. That, and a 1982 federal law legalizing civil marriage between “persons” (without specifying their gender) emboldened the mayor of the island municipality of Tilos to officiate and register the marriage of two same-sex couples — one gay and one lesbian. The couples were married on June 3, 2008.
Immediately, the country’s Justice Minister said that he considered the marriages “invalid.” The country’s Supreme Court prosecutor also threatened to charge the mayor of Tilos with “breach of duty” for his actions. He was charged but later acquitted.
Nearly three years later, the District of Rhodes — the regional unit containing Tilos — declared that Katsagiannis and Tsambrounis’ marriage “did not exist,” a decision that was upheld by a Greecian Court of Appeals later that same year.
Nevertheless, in 2012, Katsagiannis announced his determination to take his case to the Supreme Court, which he did.
Now, nine years later, the Greek Supreme Court has ruled their marriage as invalid, citing the Greek rule of law. The Court said that their decision “is considered to reflect the moral and social values and traditions of the Greek people, who do not support the legalization of marriage for homosexual couples.”
Katsagiannis has said that he will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, but even if he wins there, that court has few ways to enforce their rulings. Despite that, the men’s marriage helped ignite the same-sex marriage debate in Greece and push same-sex rights forward.
A 2013 Pew Research poll found that 53% of Greek respondents now believe that society should accept homosexuality. In 2015, the country legalized civil unions for both same-sex and heterosexual couples, and a 2015 FocusBari poll found 56% of Greek citizens in support of same-sex marriage.
Featured image by da-kuk via iStock