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Europe

Greek Island Mayor Performs Country's First Gay Weddings

The tiny Dodecanese island of Tilos played host to Greece's first ever gay wedding on Tuesday, June 3, despite protests by a supreme court prosecutor that such civil ceremonies were deemed illegal.

Two men holding hands

Ambiguous wording in the civil marriage law led to the first gay union

Tilos Mayor Tasos Aliferis performed the early morning civil ceremony between two men before hundreds of witnesses, including members of the country's gay and lesbian community, journalists and Tilos residents.

He said another wedding between two women would also take place on Tilos, which falls under the judicial jurisdiction of nearby Rhodes, in the near future.

Last week, Supreme Court Prosecutor Giorgos Sanides sought to stop the marriage from taking place and issued a directive stating that marriage between same-sex couples will be "automatically annulled and considered illegal."

After the ceremony on Tuesday, a prosecutor on the nearby island of Rhodes ordered an investigation into whether grounds existed for charging Aliferis with the offence of overstepping his authority.

Ambiguous legal wording

A lesbian organization in Greece said it had discovered a loophole in a 26-year-old civil marriage law that would allow gays to marry legally.

The group, OLKE, said a 1982 law legalizing weddings and civil ceremonies refers only to participating "persons," without specifying gender.

The Justice Ministry recently introduced civil partnership legislation granting legal rights to unmarried couples, but gays are not included in the law.

Theofanou Papzisi, a law professor at Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, said that the "civil marriage law does not specify gender, thus no one can be breaking the law if such marriage ceremonies are performed."

Gays are protected under Greek anti-discrimination laws, but gay groups complain they still face widespread discrimination, both in public and at work.

Greece's powerful Orthodox Church is staunchly opposed to granting gays legal rights and accepting common law marriages.

The church's new leader, Archbishop Ieronymos, enthroned earlier this year, has not raised any objections to the proposed reforms.

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