Anti-gay protesters hold religious banners amid heavy police presence and during a Pride march in Belgrade, Serbia, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023. Source: AP Photo/Marko Drobnjakovic, File

Church Authorities in Greece Slap Religious Ban on Local Politicians Who Backed Same-Sex Marriage


Backlash from the Orthodox Church of Greece against a landmark law allowing same-sex civil marriage intensified Tuesday, with a regional bishopric imposing a religious ban on two local lawmakers who backed the reform.

Church authorities on the northwestern island of Corfu accused the two opposition lawmakers of committing "the deepest spiritual and moral error" in voting for the law, which was approved with cross-party support on Feb. 15.

Greece was the first Orthodox Christian country to legalize same-sex marriage. The socially conservative Church of Greece had strongly and volubly opposed the reform proposed by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis ' center-right government, preaching against it and pressuring lawmakers to reject it.

"For us, these two (local) lawmakers cannot consider themselves active members of the Church," a statement from the bishopric of Corfu said Tuesday.

It added that they should be excluded from the key Christian rite of communion, abstain from any Church events and not be accorded formal honors by Church functionaries at official events or parish gatherings.

"We exhort them to repent for their impropriety," the statement added.

The bishopric proceeded to commend another local lawmaker from Mitsotakis' governing New Democracy party for voting against the law.

"That is the kind of politician, irrespective of other convictions, that we need in our country," it said.

The Corfu bishopric's statement followed a similar move last month from Church officials in Piraeus, the port of Athens, targeting local lawmakers who voted to legalize same-sex marriage.

The left-wing PASOK party, one of whose lawmakers was targeted Tuesday, said the Corfu bishopric's decision was "unacceptable."

Beyond legalizing marriage, the law also confered full parental rights on married same-sex partners with children. But it precluded gay couples from parenthood through surrogate mothers in Greece – an option currently available to women who can't have children for health reasons.

It was approved despite opposition from a minority of lawmakers from New Democracy's right wing, who either voted against it abstained from the ballot – as did several left-wing opposition lawmakers.

Prime Minister Mitsotakis personally championed the reform, which was backed by a narrow majority of the population, according to opinion polls.

Greek media reported that the first same-sex wedding under the new law was held over the weekend in southern Athens.

Church officials focus their criticism on the law's implications for traditional family values. They have also argued that potential legal challenges could lead to a future extension of surrogacy rights to gay couples.

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