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Same-sex couples can now marry in Estonia and Greece

In Estonia, same-sex lovers have a reason to celebrate: on 1 January, new laws came into force in Estonia that allow same-sex couples to marry. Since then, the Baltic state has experienced a veritable wedding boom. There is also cause for celebration in Greece, as the Greek parliament voted in favour of the introduction of civil marriage for same-sex couples on 16 February 2024.

While in some countries same-sex couples can still only enter into a registered civil partnership and are waiting for same-sex marriage to be legalised, in most EU countries marriage is already legalised for same-sex couples.

Estonia is the first country in the former Soviet Union to legalise same-sex marriage

The legalisation of same-sex marriage in Estonia marks a historic moment for the Baltic states and Eastern Europe in general. It is the first country in the former Soviet Union to legalise marriage equality after a parliamentary vote of 55 to 34. In addition, same-sex couples now have the right to adopt children, just like any other married couple. Reciprocal child adoptions have also been significantly simplified.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas emphasises: "Everyone should have the right to marry the person they love and want to be with. With this decision, we finally join the other Nordic countries and all other democratic countries in the world where marriage equality is granted. Marriage equality does not take anything away from anyone, but gives significant added value to many. It also shows that our society is caring and respectful towards each other. I am proud of Estonia."

Social Affairs Minister Signe Riisalo emphasised that equality before the law is an indispensable principle. "This also reflects our fundamental values. I am confident that any remaining concerns will gradually disappear and that the realisation that this decision harms no one will prevail. On the contrary, it opens up a significant opportunity for many Estonians," Riisalo said firmly.

Day of joy in Greece: "Marriage for all" is legalised

In February 2024, the Greek parliament cleared the way for the legalisation of "marriage for all".

Of the 300 seats in parliament, 176 MPs supported the corresponding law, which was introduced by the conservative government under Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. This decision marked an unusual unity across party lines, as left-wing, social democratic and conservative MPs all supported the proposal. The 76 votes against came from different political camps, while Mitsotakis allowed MPs from his conservative Nea Dimokratia (ND) party to vote according to their conscience. There were only two abstentions, while 46 MPs did not take part in the vote.

Heated discussions in Greek society

The vote was preceded by controversial discussions in parliament and in society. Smaller ultra-conservative parties and representatives of religious groups criticised the law and saw it as a violation of the traditions of Greek society and the teachings of the Orthodox Church. Some bishops urged MPs in their regions to think carefully about their decisions. The Orthodox Church has a strong influence in religiously orientated constituencies, as it is enshrined in the Greek constitution as the predominant religion. Surveys also show that the opinions of Greeks on "marriage for all" are clearly divided: 50 per cent in favour, 50 per cent against. Prime Minister Mitsotakis, on the other hand, emphasised that no one in Greece should be treated as a second-class citizen and described the day of the vote as a day of joy.

Equal rights and obligations in "marriage for all"

Under the new law, homosexual couples now have the same rights and obligations as heterosexual couples, including the right to adopt children. Both partners receive custody rights, even if the child is only biologically assigned to one of them. However, the use of surrogate mothers for homosexual couples remains prohibited.

This article is from the 2/2024 issue of the magazine "Life Abroad".

The magazine is published four times a year free of charge with many informative articles on foreign topics.

It is published by the BDAE, the expert for protection abroad.