A Greek television station has been fined euros 100,000 (£69,530) for showing two men kissing. Mega television was handed the fine over a broadcast of its weekly drama Close Your Eyes. The National Radio and Television Council which imposed the fine called the scene "vulgar and unacceptable". But TV critic Popi Diamandakou called the decison "hypocritical" after shots of Britney Spears kissing Madonna at the MTV Awards were repeatedly shown. "The council tells us … that it’s OK to be tolerant but we shouldn’t go too far," wrote Ms Diamandakou in the daily Ta Nea newspaper.
The National Radio and Television Council ran into controversy in 2002 when it stepped in to a row about the Greek version of Big Brother. Its president, Vasillis Lambridis, originally pulled the reality TV show off the air claiming it had overstepped the boundaries of public decency. But he was over-ruled by other members of the television watchdog, and the show was allowed to continue, albeit moved from a 2200 timeslot to past midnight.
In the UK, 21 complaints were received when Coronation Street recently screened its first gay kiss, but these were rejected by the Indepent Television Commission
November 14, 2003 – Associated Press
Gays in Greece Kiss in Public As Protest
by Derek Gatopoulos, Associated Press Writer
Athens – Gay protesters smooched in public Friday to demonstrate against Greek TV regulators who fined a station $116,000 for broadcasting a scene of two men kissing. Greece’s Mega television was punished by the National Radio and Television Council for an Oct. 6 episode of the weekly drama "Close Your Eyes," stirring debate over an issue rarely discussed in public "They want to tell us who we can kiss and what time kissing is appropriate," Grigoris Valianatos, a gay activist, said moments before embracing a fellow protester. "We believe a kiss is an act of love, tenderness and courage." The television council described the kissing scene as "vulgar and unacceptable."
The ruling drew strong criticism from commentators who pointed to frequent nudity on Greek television and the repeated broadcast of clips showing Madonna kissing singer Britney Spears during the MTV Video Music Awards in August. About 30 gays, lesbians and transsexuals gathered for the protest in central Athens. They kissed in front of dozens of reporters, photographers and cameramen in an event timed to coincide with evening news shows.
Homosexuals in Greece complain of discrimination by employers, and displays of affection by same-sex couples are widely frowned upon. The country’s predominant Orthodox Church also strongly opposes gay marriage. "We think the (TV regulators) should resign," Valianatos said. "We’d like to think of Greece as a tolerant country." Commentators called the fine hypocritical. "It’s far more vulgar to repeatedly show the effeminate gay stereotype, of the shrill-voiced and foppish man, on ‘family oriented’ programs," television critic Marianna Tziantzi wrote in the Athens daily Kathimerini
August 24, 2004 – Gay.com/PlanetOut.com Network
Lesbian and gay sports people have been winning medals over the last few days at the Athens Olympics
Amelie Mauresmo, an openly gay athlete from France, won a silver medal on Saturday in the women’s singles tennis tournament at the Olympics. Mauresmo lost to Justine Henin-Hardenne of Belgium in the championship match, 6-3, 6-3. Henin-Hardenne is currently the top-ranked player in women’s tennis. "[Henin-Hardenne] started very, very strongly," Mauresmo told the press after the match. "She didn’t give me a chance to play my game."
Earlier in the week, Mauresmo developed a skin rash that hindered her enough that she pulled out of the doubles competition. The Olympic silver medal is one of the high points in Mauresmo’s career. According to the Olympics Web site, the French athlete has only made it to one Grand Slam final, finishing as the runner-up in the 1999 Australian Open. Another elite lesbian tennis player, Martina Navratilova, was knocked out of the women’s doubles tournament last week with her partner Lisa Raymond, one step short of the medal round.
On Saturday two gay Olympians from the United States won bronze medals in the equestrian team dressage competition. Six-time Olympian Robert Dover and Guenter Seidel were part of the four-person US team that finished behind Germany and the Netherlands, respectively. It was bad news for the only out gay member of Team GB, however. Rob Newton failed to make it through the second round of the men’s 110m hurdles this morning, coming seventh with a time of 13.85 seconds in his heat. A newcomer to the Olympics, the 23 year old Newton was expected to make it through to the semi-finals in the qualifying round, but suffered during his heat. He is however being tipped for greater things at future games.
February 2005 – 365Gay.com
A quasi Government agency has told the Greek government to create a civil unions registry
Athens – The National Human Rights Committee proposed a registry that would cover both same-sex couples and unmarried heterosexual ones. The committee, which advises the prime minister and government called for “the legal recognition of a real symbiotic relationship between homosexuals.”
The Committee report was handed over to the Justice Ministry. If it is accepted it would mean dozens of laws would have to be amended. The report said it was not advocating same-sex marriage or adoption. It said that civil unions would be sufficient to protect the rights of gays in relationships in areas of pensions, inheritance and property. LGBT human rights groups hailed the proposals as a good first start but said they needed to go further.
The recommendations, however, are expected to face stiff opposition from the powerful Greek Orthodox Church. “We are dealing with this only as a state issue," said Christina Papadopoulou, the scientific adviser to the Committee. "We do not care if the Church agrees or not.” The Orthodox Church is the state religion in Greece and wields considerable power, although the government has threatened to take away much of the Church’s authority in the wake of a child abuse scandal involving priests.
December 19, 2005 – 365Gay.com
Greek Leader Rejects Rights For Gay Couples
by Malcolm Thornberry, European Bureau Chief
Athens – Greek Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras dashed all hopes on the weekend that the government would bring in legislation recognizing same-sex couples.
Papaligouras said that the government is looking at giving more rights to unmarried heterosexual couples but any bill on the issue would not include gay and lesbian partners. " Any legislative initiative cannot exceed the tolerance and the sentiment of what is generally acceptable in any society,” Papaligouras said, responding to a question from the Synaspismos Left Coalition leader Alekos Alavanos.
Alavanos supports granting rights to same-sex couples and called on the Justice Minister to form a parliamentary committee to examine the possibility of giving greater recognition to same-sex couples. “ Every change has to mature in society before it can be decreed as law," Papaligouras replied. In July Alvanos committed his left of center party to supporting gay couples in a meeting with LGBT activists in Athens. (story) The meeting following the release of a report last winter by a quasi Government agency urging the Greek government to create a civil unions registry.
But the powerful Greek Orthodox Church opposes any move that it believes could lead to same-sex marriage. "Gay people warp human nature with unspeakable, unnatural acts," Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki said following Alvanos’ meeting with gay leaders. Among other European Union nations same-sex marriage is legal in The Netherlands, Spain and Belgium. Most others have varying forms of civil unions. This week the first civil partnerships will be registered in the UK. The only country to ban any recognition of gay couples in its constitution is Latvia.
June 25, 2006 – Associated Press
Second Gay Pride Parade in Athens
Athens – About 500 people marched through Athens on Saturday to demand greater tolerance toward gays, lesbians and transsexuals, in the country’s second large-scale gay pride parade. Participants formed a sea of rainbow flags a popular gay symbol as they marched through the center of the city. Marchers blew whistles, beat drums, and carried banners reading "Out, loud and proud." "It’s the support we feel we should give to our own lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual community to come out, be proud of who they are and live a life of transparency, not shame," said Andrea Gilbert, a member of the Athens Pride Committee. "It’s not a bone to pick with society."
Athens a bustling metropolis of 4 million has several gay bars, and summer island resorts such as Mykonos draw thousands of gay tourists annually.
But gays and lesbians in this European Union nation of 11 million people complain of discrimination by employers. Public displays of affection by same-sex couples are widely frowned upon. Homosexuality has also been denounced as a sin by the country’s powerful Orthodox Church. In 2003, Greece’s Mega television was fined US$116,000 by the National Radio and Television Council for a scene of two men kissing in an episode of the weekly drama "Close your Eyes."
Debate heated up a year later over Oliver Stone’s Hollywood epic based on the life of ancient Macedonian warrior king Alexander the Great, whose bisexuality was depicted through a close bond with his childhood friend, Hephaestion. The portrayal of Alexander idolized in Greece as a symbol of its ancient glory hit a raw nerve and a group of lawyers threatened to sue the movie’s producers.
Parade attendees insisted that public demonstrations are important in maintaining gays’ representation and promoting equal rights. "Everybody says Greece isn’t ready," said gay activist Leo Kalovyrnas, who held a large silk rainbow flag. "But things don’t happen on their own people make them happen." Athens City Council member Yvette Jarvis also backed the cause, insisting that "gay people cannot be outcasts and forced into a life of hiding and fear." At stands in central Klathmonos Square, activists handed out pamphlets calling for the recognition of civil marriage for same-sex couples, legal recognition of gender and sexual orientation and nondiscriminatory sex education at all school levels in Greece.
TO: The European Parliament, European Political Parties,
Humanitarian Organizations, International Press
We are writing to draw your attention to the case of a 40-year-old gay Iranian man, identified here as Alex, who is about to be expelled from Greece and deported back to Iran. As is well known and documented, gay people in Iran are subjected to persecution and severe punishment, including execution. If Alex returns to Iran, Greece will be committing a serious miscarriage of justice and a gross violation of human rights.
Alex (his real name and identity are known to our organization) used to live a fully respected life in Iran. He is a member of a rich Iranian family and used to have a respectful job in Iran. In 1999 he was visited at his workplace by an ex-schoolmate who knew Alex was gay and who was probably a member of the government party. After that visit, Alex was arrested by the religion police and kept in the Jankal jail at the Iranian town of Rast for 45 days. Alex was tortured at Jankal. He was beaten systematically with lashing straps in his back and kidneys and afterwards was put in water in order to not develop ecchymosis and edema. He was beaten several times in the face, losing three teeth as a result. He had his testicles twisted, was submitted to bastinado and had salt poured on his open wounds. He was put twice in mock execution.
After spending forty-five days in jail, his family paid to get him out so that he could attend the funeral of his mother. The police took him to the funeral in women’s clothes. While out of jail, Alex managed to escape. A few days later, he arrived to Greece by way of Turkey in a terrible condition. He went to the General Administration office of the police and applied for political asylum based on the torture he had been submitted to in Iran. The application was rejected. In 2003, Alex submitted a second application for political asylum stating that he was homosexual and had a relationship with a Greek man, Phoebos (his real name and identity are known to our organization), who also testified that he was Alex’s partner. (Alex and Phoebos are still together today). However, this application was also rejected. (Alex’s file in the Ministry of Public Order is YDT 95/43303; his file in the Asylum Department of the Home Office is 12206/38647).
Now Alex’s case is to be discussed in front of the Supreme Council, which is scheduled to decide for a definitive resolution regarding his status as a refugee on March 11, 2008.
Alex’s deportation to Iran will constitute a violation of the articles 3 and 15 of the International Convention of the Human Rights, co-signed and validated by Greece.
We need your strong support in order to prevent the Greek state from violating the international law and the human rights of a person whose life is in danger because of his sexuality.
We would be more than happy to provide further information on the case.
Thank you for your time and consideration. We look forward to your response and immediate action.
The Members of the Greek Homosexual Community (G.H.C.-???)
Contact: General Secretary of GHC-EOK Marina Galanou
Greek Homosexual Community, EOK
(Member of: ILGA, ILGYO, All Different-all Equal)
Antoniadou 6 str., Athens, Attica, PC 10434, Greece
Tel. (0030)210.8826600 Fax. (0030)210.8826898
18 March 2008 – BBC News
Row over Greek unmarried couples
The Greek Orthodox Church has expressed opposition to plans by the Athens government to give greater rights to unmarried couples. The Church’s governing synod said it considered all common-law marriages to be tantamount to "prostitution". The government proposes to give common-law couples the same rights as those who have gone through legal or religious ceremonies. It wants to harmonise Greek law to European standards.
The new law would allow unmarried couples to make their relationship legally binding, by signing a simple notarial contract. In its statement, the Church said that the proposal constituted a "catastrophic bomb" under the foundations of Greek society. The leader of the Church, Archbishop Ieronimos, who was elected in February, had last week refused to comment on the government’s plans, saying they came under the jurisdiction of civil authorities.
But the synod has now taken a different view. The draft legislation is also opposed by Greece’s homosexual community on the basis of discrimination, as it only takes account of heterosexual couples.
19th March 2008 – PinkNews
Greek Orthodox church slams rights for unmarried couples
by Susan Phu
The Greek Othordox Church has spoken out against proposals to allow unmarried heretosexual couples in the country to have their relationships registered. The BBC reports that the Chruch’s governing synod described moves by the Greek government to afford unmarried or defacto couples the same legal rights as their married counterparts as a "catastrophic bomb" which threatened Greek society and compared the move to "prostitution."
The Greek government is hoping new legislation will align with similar laws throughout Europe. However, this proposed bill has to date only included heterosexual unmarried couples. Gay rights group Olke plans to actively lobby the Greek government and have slammed what they perceive as an unlawful draft bill, to legally recognise heterosexual unions only. Greek government policy is still steadfastly anti-gay.
Gay marriage has long been opposed and gays are still barred from entering the military.However, homosexuals in Greece are still seeking a greater voice within their country in recent years, which culminated in the first Gay Pride parade in 2005.A Greek lesbian couple in Athens are due to attempt to marry in a civil ceremony in the country’s first same-sex marriage.The law does not explicitly proclaim a civil union must take place between a man and a woman, the couple are hoping to take advantage. The ceremony is set to take place in the Kessariani quarter of Athens and will be officiated by the town’s mayor, Spyros Tzokas – a man whose party, Syriza, is radically left-wing. Mr Tzokas spoke out as having no objections to the union as long as the marriage respected the law.
20th March 2008 – PinkNews
Greek bloggers fight for gay partnership equality
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
More than 200 weblogs have joined an initiative called Greek Bloggers Against Discrimination to campaign against proposed new legislation on domestic partnerships that excludes same-sex couples. "This discriminatory project has been widely denounced not just by the LGBT community, but also Greek citizens from all walks of life who believe that it violates the Equality clause enshrined in our constitution, as well as the country’s European commitments," the group said. We ask our friends in Europe and around the world to help us achieve the widest possible publicity for these initiatives."
Gay rights group Olke plans to lobby the Greek government and has slammed what they perceive as an unlawful draft bill. Greek government policy is still steadfastly anti-gay. Gay marriage has long been opposed and gays are still barred from entering the military. However, homosexuals in Greece are still seeking a greater voice within their country in recent years, which culminated in the first Gay Pride parade in 2005.
A Greek lesbian couple in Athens are due to attempt to marry in a civil ceremony in the country’s first same-sex marriage. The law does not explicitly proclaim a civil union must take place between a man and a woman and the couple are hoping to take advantage of that loophole. The Greek Othordox Church’s governing synod has described the plans to afford unmarried or defacto couples the same legal rights as their married counterparts as a "catastrophic bomb" which threatened Greek society and compared the move to "prostitution."
For a full list of the 200 weblogs that have signed on the initiative click here.
31st March 2008 – PinkNews
Gay Iranian spared deportation from Greece
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
Gay rights activists in Greece are celebrating after their government has decided not to deport a 40-year-old man back to Iran.Known as Alex, he was arrested, beaten and tortured in his home country because he is gay. Two separate applications to remain in Greece had been rejected. The Greek Homosexual Community (GHC-EOK), which led a campaign on his behalf, said today:
"We are happy to announce that the gay Iranian refugee, known as ‘Alex,’ was finally granted asylum following the reconsideration of his case. EOK wishes to express its gratitude to all within Greece and abroad involved with enthusiasm and who helped the positive outcome. Special acknowledgments go to the party of SYRIZA who, immediately after becoming aware of the case, helped to achieve the positive outcome and to the Deputy Minister Mr Chenofotis, who responded by acknowledging the just cause in Alex’s case."
Gay and lesbian people in the Islamic Republic of Iran face the death penalty. GHC-EOK say that Alex is a member of a rich Iranian family who was visited in 1999 at his workplace by an ex-schoolmate who knew Alex was gay and who was probably a member of the government party. After that visit, Alex was arrested by the religious police and kept in the Jankal jail at the Iranian town of Rast for 45 days. Alex was tortured at Jankal. He was beaten systematically with lashing straps in his back and kidneys. Beaten several times in the face, he lost three teeth as a result. He had his testicles twisted, was submitted to bastinado (beating the soles of the feet) and had salt poured on his open wounds. He was put twice in mock execution. After spending forty-five days in jail, his family paid to get him out so that he could attend the funeral of his mother.
The police took him to the funeral in women’s clothes. While out of jail, Alex managed to escape. A few days later, he arrived to Greece by way of Turkey in a terrible condition. He went to the General Administration office of the police and applied for political asylum based on the torture he had been submitted to in Iran. The application was rejected.
In 2003, Alex submitted a second application for political asylum stating that he was homosexual and had a relationship with a Greek man, Phoebos (not his real name), who also testified that he was Alex’s partner. Alex and Phoebos are still together. However, this application was also rejected. The status of Iranian people claiming asylum on the grounds of their sexuality has caused controversy in several European countries, including the UK.
Earlier this month the British government agreed to reconsider the case of gay Iranian Mehdi Kazemi. The 19-year old, who has lived in Britain since 2005, was facing deportation and possible execution in Iran, where homosexuality is illegal. Although the decision was met with support, gay activists warned that there are many similar cases which are being overlooked by the government.
Omar Kuddus, a gay rights activist who campaigned for Kazemi’s case, told PinkNews.co.uk: "The British government has for once done the right thing and given this young man a chance and hope for his future. There is no question of the fate awaiting Madhi if he is deported back to Iran – execution, just for being gay. Homosexuality is not accepted and the state kills and punishes those guilty of being gay. To say that homosexuals are safe as long as they are discreet and live their lives in private, is to say that Anne Frank was safe from the Nazis in World War Two as long as she hid in her attic, there is no difference. Homosexuality shall never be acceptable in Iran as long as the Ayatollahs and Sharia law is in place. I am grateful that Mehdi can now make his case and establish the true dangers awaiting him in Iran."
The Home Office said that even though homosexuality is illegal in Iran and homosexuals do experience discrimination, it does not believe that homosexuals are routinely persecuted purely on the basis of their sexuality.
Peter Tatchell, a human rights campaigner and member of gay rights group OutRage! believes that there are dozens of other gay asylum seekers whose cases the government are refusing to review. Mr Tatchell said: "The review of this case is welcome, but there are still many more which need to be reconsidered, including Pegah Emambakhsh and many other individuals who are fleeing violently homophobic countries such as Uganda, Nigeria, Iraq, Zimbabwe and Palestine. The underlying problem is the government’s whole asylum system and the way it is rigged to fail as many applicants as possible, combined with the homophobic biases of the asylum process. Asylum staff and adjudicators are given no training on sexual orientation and there is no explicit official policy supporting the right of refugees to claim asylum on the grounds of sexual orientation."
Ms Emambakhsh, 40, who fled to Britain in 2005 after her girlfriend was sentenced to the death penalty, narrowly avoided deportation in August last year when her local MP Richard Caborn persuaded the government to allow her to stay while further avenues of appeal were explored. Last month, however, the Court of Appeal turned down her application for permission for a full hearing and she now plans to apply for a judicial review at the High Court.
6 May 2008 – The Independent
Who are the real lesbians?
Ever since Sappho wrote of her feelings for other women, the Greek island of Lesbos where she lived has had its own place in the dictionary. But now its modern residents have begun a campaign to reclaim the term for themselves. John Walsh report. When is a lesbian not a Lesbian? The answer’s in the capital letter – it’s when you are a woman who loves women, rather than an inhabitant of the Aegean paradise of Lesbos (or Lesvos in the modern spelling). For decades, foolish and unsophisticated tourists have giggled about the coincidence of the Greek island and the sexual orientation. Now it’s become the crux of a legal dispute whose implications are global. It began when a gay rights group, calling themselves the Greek Gay and Lesbian Union (Olke) came to the ears of Dimitris Lambrou, a publisher of a small, serious magazine devoted to ancient-Greek religious issues, and an islander on Lesbos. He objected to the casual appropriation of his island’s name, co-opted two local women, Maria Rodou and Kokkoni Kouvalaki, and filed a lawsuit on 10 April. Olke responded stoutly, claiming that the proposed injunction is a groundless violation of freedom of expression.
Mr Lambrou and his friends seek to remove the word "lesbian" from the group’s name. "It’s not an aggressive act against gay women," he said. "Let them visit Lesbos and get married and whatever they like. We just want them to remove the word lesbian from their title." His emollient words hide an old-fashioned distaste for sexual unorthodoxy behind a simply territorial objection. "My sister can’t say she’s a Lesbian," he complained. "Our geographical designation has been usurped by certain ladies who have no connection whatsoever with Lesbos." Mr Lambrou’s magazine, Davlos (Torch) has been campaigning against the nomenclatural confusion for years, ever since gay women from all over the globe made the island a place of pilgrimage: the island’s pleasant town of Eressos is well-known as a world lesbian conference centre. It’s there that Olke has argued that Greek lesbians should have a right to same-sex marriage: an uphill struggle in such a conservative country. But their deliberations have encountered opposition and scorn from nervous parents and church organisations. Mr Lambrou claims the islanders have for years suffered "psychological and moral rape" by having the place’s name pinched by the sisterhood. He likes to point out that the sexual meaning of "lesbian" has been around only for a few decades, while he and his fellow-islanders "have been Lesbians for thousands of years". The Greek Gay and Lesbian Union denies it. "It’s nonsense," said Evangelia Vlami, its spokesman. "The term has been in use to denote gay women for thousands of years."
This may be true, but the Oxford English Dictionary included the word with its modern usage only from the 1950s. Mr Lambrou is being stoutly British in his objections. The Greek legal system is taking the matter seriously, and the case will be heard in Athens on 10 June. But it raises all kind of questions: if the Olke organisation can be stopped from using the word with its familiar connotations, can the islanders stop other people – people in Greece, in mainland Europe, in America, in the world – using the word to mean anything except "descended from the inhabitants of Lesbos"? Can Lambrou fight the use of "lesbian" internationally and insist that – in its capitalised form – it can be used only by the 100,000 islanders and a further 250,000 expatriate Lesbians all over the globe? Can the name be branded, never to be used in the public prints except with an initial capital – like Sellotape, and Hoover and Biro, all of which have been the centre of course actions brought by sensitive manufacturers? In modern dictionaries (50 years after the OED led the way), the primary meaning of "lesbian" is "(of women) homosexual" while "(with cap) of the island of Lesbos" comes a poor second. How could the copyright be enforced worldwide?
The reason why Lesbos is blessed, or cursed, with connotations of homosexuality is the presence on the island of one of the ancient world’s great lyric writers: Sappho. She was born somewhere between 630 and 612 BC, married a rich merchant and had a daughter called Cleis. She seemed to have money to burn, and spent her time communing with the arts. She took to writing poetry – lyric poetry, created to be sung to lyre music – and revolutionised the tradition by writing about her own thoughts and feelings, rather than about what the gods and Muses might be thinking. She was an innovator: among her ground-breaking work was her predilection for writing tender love poems to women – often of elegy and yearning for a departed lover: "Come back to me, Gongyla, here tonight," reads one fragment. "You, my rose, with your Lydian lyre/ There hovers forever around you delight:/ A beauty desired." Her poetic voice did not suggest a woman in the grip of a schoolgirl crush. These were heartfelt love poems of erotic adoration to the pupils sent to her to learn the arts of verse. When the girls left her febrile embrace, she went on writing to them and, when they got married, wrote their epithalamia, or wedding songs.
It was rare to find women writing poetry at all in ancient Greece; rarer still to find one uttering sexually charged feelings for other women. But nobody seems to have condemned her, or even judged her odd or perverse, for her expressions of desire and loss. Plato thought so highly of her lyric gift that he spoke about her as one of the Muses. It seems a shame that, although her poetry ran to nine volumes, all we have left is a single poem and a lot of fragments. Many bits of papyrus containing pieces of her work were found in the Nile valley in the 19th century: they had been used to wrap mummies and coffins and stuff sacred animals, a rather pathetic fate for the oeuvre of such a proto-romantic. But one thing she handed down to posterity was her name – or at least the adjective that derives from it. Type "Sapphic" into an internet search engine and you’ll be knee-deep in hot-babe-action websites with names like Sapphic Traffic. Legitimate fields of Sapphic inquiry – such as the "Sapphic stanza", a four-line metre used by poets as far removed as Swinburne and Ginsberg – receive, by comparison, very little attention.
Back at Lesbos, the indefatigable Mr Lambrou has been pointing out, as a clincher to his many anti-lesbian arguments, that Sappho wasn’t actually gay anyway, since she got married and gave birth to a daughter. He also claims, more controversially, that new historical research suggests she killed herself because of unrequited love for a man. The whole semantic structure of the word "lesbian", therefore (he claims) is based on a misunderstanding. The Olke group responded with spirit. "This doesn’t mean anything," said Evangelia Vlami. "Thousands of lesbians are in married situations with children, and the story of her suicide is not founded in fact." So the trial of lower-case lesbian vs upper-case Lesbian is going ahead. Now, an on-line magazine called The Register has put forward a solution. It suggests that Greek lesbians henceforth call themselves Sapphists, non-Greek gay women continue to call themselves (small l) lesbians – and islanders call themselves Mytilenians, after the name of its capital, Mytilene. It is, after all, the name used in common Greek parlance when talking about Lesbos. Whether this will cut any ice with the extremelyliteral-minded Mr Lambrouremains to be seen.
May 30, 2008 – PinkNews
Test for Greek marriage law as mayor agrees to same-sex ceremony
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
Tilos many not be the best-known island in the Aegean Sea, but its mayor has made a bold move to put it on the map. Tassos Alfieries has offered to perform Greece’s first gay wedding, after two men announced their intention to wed in a newspaper notice. Lesbian and gay rights activists argue that the law does not explicitly proclaim a civil union must take place between a man and a woman, and there were reports in March that a lesbian couple intended to get married. Now, in the light of more speculation that the law does not exclude same-sex couples, a gay couple took the first official step toward marriage by taking out a newspaper announcement. The mayor of Tilos, which has a population of less than 600, has offered to perform the civil ceremony.
Greek authorities are already considering adopting a law that would allow same-sex couples to be recognised by a civil ceremony. The Greek Justice Ministry pledged to establish a working group on the rights of gay couples living together, which would "analyse all aspects of the issue, international practice and the existing domestic legal and social framework." The New Democracy-led government is expected to introduce legislation later in the year that will offer several rights to unmarried couples. The Minister of Justice has announced to the media that the government is against discrimination and will therefore include same-sex unions in the legislation.
The announcement has caused anger in the Greek Orthodox Church. Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki said that such a decision would degrade the human species and "make them equal to animals." However, Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens has distanced himself from the Holy Synod’s stance on the issue of cohabitation between unmarried couples saying that the Church "should be more open-minded and less moralistic."
The Greek government is hoping new legislation will align with similar laws throughout Europe. The government of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis remains opposed to same-sex marriage. A survey published on December 2006 showed that 16% of Greeks surveyed support same-sex marriage and 11% recognise same-sex couple’s right to adopt. These figures are considerably below the 27-member European Union average of 44% and 33% respectively and place Greece in the lowest ranks of the European Union along with Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus. Homosexuals in Greece are still seeking a greater voice within their country in recent years, which culminated in the first Gay Pride parade in 2005.
June 2, 2008 – PinkNews
Greek prosecutors to stop same-sex marriage
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
Greece’s constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman, the country’s Supreme Court prosecutor Giorgos Sanidas, has said in a directive. He has written to prosecutors outlining how Article 21, "the family, being the cornerstone of the preservation and the advancement of the Nation, as well as marriage, motherhood and childhood, shall be under the protection of the State,"means same-sex marriage is illegal. In March a gay and lesbian rights organisation threatened to sue local authorities who refuse to marry same-sex couples after discovering that a 1982 law on civil wedding ceremonies refers only to "persons."
The Lesbian and Gay Community of Greece (OLKE) announced its intention to test their interpretation of the law. Since then a gay couple have taken the first official step toward marriage by posting a wedding notice in a newspaper. The Mayor of a small island in the Aegean, Tilos, has offered to marry the men. Tilos has a population of less than 600. Gay groups in Greece were disappointed earlier this year after the conservative government left gays out of plans to create civil partnerships that would improve financial rights for unmarried couples
The Greek Orthodox church, which still retains considerable influence, is opposed to equality for gay couples. Despite its membership of the EU, Greece fails to provide many rights that LGBT people in other member states enjoy, such as an unequal age of consent
June 4, 2008 – The New York Times
Same-Sex Marriages Performed in Greece
by Anthee Carassava
Athens – Defying governmental wrath, the mayor of a remote Greek island performed the country’s first same-sex marriages on Tuesday, wedding two men and two women. The civil ceremonies, held at sunrise in the nondescript town hall of Tilos, a tiny island in the eastern Aegean Sea, defied statements by a senior Greek prosecutor last week that such unions were illegal. “It’s done, now,” the mayor, Anastassios Aliferis, said in a telephone interview. “The unions have been registered, and the licenses have been issued. It’s a historic moment.”
With its abundance of glamorous gay bars and summer island resorts like Mykonos, Greece has long drawn thousands of gay tourists annually. But gay men and lesbians in this European Union nation of 11 million people frequently complain of discrimination. Public displays of affection are widely frowned upon. The country’s military bars gay men and lesbians from joining its ranks, and in 2003 a private Greek television network, Mega Channel, was fined $116,000 by the National Radio and Television Council for showing men kissing in a weekly drama. Greece’s powerful Orthodox Church has also denounced homosexuality as a sin and “defect of human nature.”
On Tuesday, however, a bubbling just-married Evangelia Vlami emerged from the Tilos town hall, telling the BBC that the unions would help end discrimination. “We did this to encourage other gay people to take a stand,” she said. About two dozen people attended the no-frills ceremony, held under the watchful eyes of police officers and dumbfounded locals. “I couldn’t believe it,” said Sofia Kamma, a resident contacted by phone. “I know they’re people too, but couldn’t they have gone on doing what they were doing without getting our community involved?” Greek gay rights groups have noted a loophole in a 1982 law that does not specify that a civil union must involve a man and woman. But last week, as the gay couples made plans to tie the knot, taking out a wedding notice in a local newspaper, Greece’s top prosecutor, Giorgos Sanidas, warned that any same-sex marriage would be “automatically nullified and considered illegal.”
He said the decree was founded in the spirit of the Constitution, which defines marriage as matrimony between a man and a woman with the intent of forming a family. But Mr. Aliferis, a Socialist foe of the ruling conservative government, insisted otherwise. “There is no court in Europe that will side by this arcane reading of the Constitution,” he said. “What happens if a couple cannot reproduce and have a family? Is their marriage null and void?” Gay activists have warned that they may now begin to sue any of the country’s municipalities if civil authorities resist requests for similar same-sex unions.
The Netherlands was the first European Union country to offer full civil marriage rights to gay couples, in 2001. Belgium did so in 2003, followed by Spain, despite fierce opposition from the Roman Catholic Church. Most other European Union countries have varying forms of civil unions. “It’s ludicrous for Greece, the cradle of democracy and human rights, to deny homosexuals equal rights and privileges,” Mr. Aliferis said. “Officials should take the time and reassess their views.”
Gay activists have vowed to seek recourse with the European Court of Justice if authorities in Greece continue to challenge same-sex marriages.
June 4, 2008 – Source News24
Mayor Charged for Gay Weddings
Athens – The mayor of the tiny Dodecannese island of Tilos was charged on Wednesday after conducting Greece’s first ever same-sex weddings in defiance of a prosecutor’s ban, reports said. Mayor Tasos Aliferis performed the civil ceremonies for two couples, one gay and one lesbian, shortly after dawn on Tuesday before hundreds of witnesses that included members of the countries gay and lesbian community, journalists and island residents.
Defying the country’s justice minister, he was later charged with breach of duty by a prosecutor on the nearby island of Rhodes, under the jurisdiction of which Tilos falls. The charge carried a maximum five-year prison sentence. The ceremonies were conducted after a lesbian organisation in Greece said it had discovered a loophole in a 26-year-old civil marriage law that would allow gays to marry legally.
June 10 2008 – The Guardian
Gay rights: Lesbos islanders go to court in bid to reclaim the word lesbian
by Helena Smith in Athens
An attempt to stop homosexual women calling themselves lesbians begins in Athens today with a court hearing that comes amid growing national debate over gay rights in one of Europe’s most socially conservative countries. The hearing has been initiated by plaintiffs on the Aegean island of Lesbos, who say they are unhappy that gay women have "usurped" a term that locals claim should have only geographical connotations. "We are very upset that, worldwide, women who like women have appropriated the name of our island," said Dimitris Lambrou, a magazine publisher who is one of those bringing the complaint with other islanders. "Until 1924, according to the Oxford English dictionary, a Lesbian was a native of our isle," he said. "Now, because of its new connotations, our womenfolk are unable to call themselves such and that is wrong."
The hearing coincides with a highly charged national debate over gay rights. Lambrou insists he has "nothing against lesbians" who flock to Eressos – a resort on the island that is famed as the birthplace of the 5th century BC poet Sappho – and whose contribution to the local economy has been considerable. But human rights campaigners say the court action has been motivated by barely disguised homophobia in a nation that remains reluctant to accept gay people. "No other group faces such discrimination in this country," said Grigoris Valianatos, a long-time homosexual rights advocate. "The [Orthodox] church is literally out of control in its approach towards us, the media full of hate speech and the conservative government both hypocritical and indifferent," he said. "This trial is a reflection of the homophobia that prevails in Greece."
On Saturday police intervened when members of the far-right Golden Dawn group attacked gay pride marchers in the biggest ever Gay Pride parade in Athens. Thousands of supporters marched through the capital chanting "it is our right", but were pelted with eggs, flour and yoghurt by the group. The increased visibility of gay people – including the first marriages between two lesbians and two gay men last week – has been met with consternation by some, with the ruling conservatives holding emergency talks to deal with the issue. Unlike most other EU member states, where same-sex couples are accorded a degree of civil rights, lesbians and gay people in Greece have fought an uphill battle for acceptance.
While their ancient forebears immortalised their homoeroticism, modern Greeks have taken a dimmer view of publicising their sexual orientation. To date no politician of any persuasion has come out. Defying EU directives, the Greek military remains opposed to accepting gay people in its ranks.
June 12, 2008 – PinkNews
Greek same-sex couples excluded from new co-habitation law
By Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
Greece’s government will introduce legislation to allow unmarried heterosexual couples to register their relationships. Yesterday the country’s "inner Cabinet" unanimously decided to press ahead with reforms, including making divorces easier to obtain, despite religious opposition. The Justice Minister, Sotiris Hatzigakis, said that rights for same-sex couples were not discussed. In March the Greek Orthodox Church’s governing synod described moves by the Greek government to afford unmarried or defacto couples the same legal rights as their married counterparts as a "catastrophic bomb" which threatened Greek society and compared the move to "prostitution."
Gay rights have become a big issue in Greece in recent weeks. In Athens last weekend Pride festivities were disrupted by right wing sympathisers. Police had to intervene. One of four people married in a same-sex ceremony the previous week attended. Tassos Alfieries, the Mayor of Tilos, an island with a population of less than 600, offered to perform Greece’s first gay wedding, after two men announced their intention to wed in a newspaper notice.
Lesbian and gay rights activists argue that the law does not explicitly proclaim a civil union must take place between a man and a woman. A prosecutor on the Greek island of Rhodes then began legal proceedings against the Mayor. Justice minister Hatzigakis said that the civil cermonies performed by Tasos Aliferis were illegal. "There is no legal framework allowing same-sex marriages to be held in Greece. Attempts to conduct marriages involving same-sex couples are illegal. Social issues and problems should be handled responsibly and seriously."
In April the Justice Ministry said it would establish a working group on the rights of gay couples living together, which would "analyse all aspects of the issue, international practice and the existing domestic legal and social framework."
12 June 2008 – Sofiaecho.com
Lesbos Island once more, with feeling
by Svetlana Guineva
To be or not to be called a “lesbian?” These days, this is the question that galvanises residents of the famous Greek island Lesbos, who campaign against the term being used to refer to gay women. The issue was taken to court by three Lesbos residents in attempt to restrict gay rights organisations from using the word, which the islanders have come to perceive as “disgraceful” and an insult to their identity. “I am Paul and I am a Lesbian,” read a badge worn by a man in the crammed courtroom on June 11, as quoted by Reuters. Later on, he displayed a banner saying “If you are not from Lesbos, you are not a Lesbian.”
The island is the third biggest in Greece, and it is home to 100 000 people. Another quarter of a million expatriates also originated from there. Traditionally, the place is a gathering arena for gay women from all over the world. One of the arguments the plaintiffs are using is that as a geographic name, the island is being used by the Greece’s gay community for “social action.” The dispute was over identity, not sexuality, they claimed. Moreover, a witness of the plaintiffs stated in court that the term caused embarrassment to the women of Lesbos, who did not want to call themselves Lesbians for “fear of being considered gay,” Associated Press reported.
Hurling accusations of prejudice, racism and homophobia, activists from the Gay and Lesbian Community of Greece (OLKE) said that “all fears of ridicule are unfounded,” AP said. "What will they do next, sue the United Nations? They, too, use the term lesbian," said Evangelia Vlami, a spokeswoman for OLKE as quoted by the AP. Vlami, who was part of the first Greek lesbian marriage initiated last week, also added that "Millions of men and women, irrespective of their sexual preferences, use the term as a designation of sexual orientation."
The court hearing comes a week after two gay-marriages were facilitated by the mayor of Tilos, a tiny island in the Aegean Sea. A loophole found in a law from 1982 encouraged Greek gay rights groups to argue that the legal text did not say whether a civil union must involve a man and a woman. The outcry from the Orthodox Greek Church and state institutions came immediately. Greece’s justice minister said that the marriages were illegal and not valid. A conservative bishop was quoted by AP as saying that the weddings were of “humanoid couples.” The court is expected to deliver a ruling on the case in two to six months.
“You know, I can make an analogy right away with something I recall happened about 10 years ago,” Aksinia Gencheva, an executive director of the Bulgarian gay organisation Gemini, told The Sofia Echo. She told the story of a British woman who wanted to have the word “history” officially taken out of usage for being sexist. Why? Because of the “his” element in it. Gencheva said the commotion created in Greece seemed to her equally ridiculous. “The word lesbian is not something to be ashamed of,” she said and added that Greece’s revenue from gay tourism amounts to 1.7 billion euro a year, as quoted by Bulgarian news agency bgnes.com. Nobody seems to be complaining about that, Gencheva said.
It is accepted that the term “lesbian” was invented by the Greek poet Sappho, a native of Lesbos. She lived during the 7th century BCE, and crafted love poetry expressing her feelings to other women. Some say, however, that a new historical research, so far unconfirmed, reveals that Sappho actually had a family and ended her life suffering from unrequited love for a man.
July 22, 2008 – PinkNews
Lesbos islanders lose court case over use of "lesbian"
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
A court in Athens today rejected a law suit from some residents of the island of Lesbos that attempted to stop homosexual women from using the word ‘lesbian’ to define themselves. Three islanders took gay rights group OLKE, the Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece, to court to get a ban on anyone except islanders and their descendants using the term lesbian. The court ruled that they do not have sole claim to the word. The Greek island, home to the 6th Century BC poet Sappho, who wrote about female same-sex love, lends its name to the term ‘lesbian.’
"My sister can’t say she is a Lesbian," islander and plaintiff Dimitris Lambrou told AP at the start of the case last month. "Our geographical designation has been usurped by certain ladies who have no connection whatsoever with Lesbos." Andrea Gilbert, spokesperson for Athens Pride 2008 and a member of OLKE, has drawn attention to the amount of money from tourism that lesbians bring to the island when visiting Eressos, the birthplace of Sappho.
She told PinkNews.co.uk: "The claim is based in serious prejudice and hatred, a ridiculous claim that most Greeks find laughable. However, the underlying homophobia and reactionary sentiment is no laughing matter." Mr Lambrou said they will take their case to the European courts. "The word lesbian has been associated with gay women for the past few decades but we have been Lesbians for thousands of years," he said.
September 29, 2008 – Daily Queer News
Greeks Protest Government Crackdown on Gay Marriage
Athens (Reuters) – Dozens of gays and lesbians protested outside parliament Monday against the conservative government’s attempt to overturn Greece’s first same-sex marriages. Waving banners reading “These Weddings Are Valid,” dozens of homosexual couples gathered in central Athens ahead of a court ruling due this week on the two marriages celebrated on the tiny Aegean island of Tilos in June.
The Justice Ministry has filed a legal suit to overturn the union of one gay and one lesbian couple after they took advantage of a loophole in Greek civil law that fails to specify gender in matrimony. “We are here because we want equality,” said Christina Neofotistou, 28, a designer. “These marriages were the first step, but this government wants to cancel it: instead they should be doing something for us.”
May 6, 2009 – PinkNews
Greek court annuls first gay marriages
by Jessica Geen
A Greek court has ruled that two gay marriages performed on the island of Tilos are invalid.
Tilos mayor Tassos Aliferis had allowed the marriages to take place in July last year, saying that civil marriage law did not specify gender.
However, the prosecutor of nearby island Rhodes, which has jurisdiction over Tilos, annulled the ceremonies on the grounds that they were illegal.
The couples, believed to be two men and women, have said they will take their cases to the European Court of Justice.
Their lawyer, Vassilis Hirdaris, told Reuters: "The court said the weddings were invalid. We will appeal within May … but I fear the appeal court’s decision won’t be different, considering how conservative Greek courts are."
The marriages had caused anger in the Greek Orthodox Church.
Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki said that such a decision would degrade the human species and "make them equal to animals."
However, Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens distanced himself from the Holy Synod’s stance on the issue of cohabitation between unmarried couples saying that the Church "should be more open-minded and less moralistic."
February 2011 – A View From The Edge
A "Return to Gay Athens After 25 Years"
Athens, March 2010: continuing from Greece 1975 The last time I visited Athens was twenty-five years ago. Now I’ve come back for a short break and discovered that the city I knew I has changed much less than I thought. What’s new includes the crowds on the Akropolis, the ubiquitous graffitti and the challenging street art, the Chinese-operated businesses and the young street merchants from Africa and South Asia who hastily bundle up their cheap sunglasses and handbags when the local police come into view – and who loiter on and around Aghios Constantinos street looking for work, money and hope.
But these are superficial changes and so much is familiar – the stylishly dressed men and women who gossip in the cafes of upmarket Kolonaki; the narrow streets of two-storey houses, small bars and general neglect in poorer neighbourhoods; local shops in place of the chains that litter London; bookshops and small theatres scattered here, there and everywhere (one offered a double bill of Twelfth Night and What the Butler Saw; I was tempted but my stamina was weaker than my Greek); the Plaka – the maze of twisting streets below the Parthenon, middle-aged men flipping worry-beads; restaurants selling moussaka and tzatziki and retsina; and so on and so on. Above all, it was a cloudless day in early spring when the soul is warmed in the sun and shivers in the shade, when orange and lemon trees hang thick with fruit, when unfamiliar scents waft from unfamiliar flowers.
I stood once again on Mount Lycabettus and saw the city sprawl in every direction. But in the distance I also saw the mountains and flashes of green, the port of Piraeus and the island of Aegina. It was as if the Greece of Alexander, of Socrates and distant Homer, had not died, but merely lay sleeping beneath this modern carapace – just as my experience of Greece had not died but merely slept in my memory.
Naked men may no longer court naked youths as they did in the ancient gymnasium and rainbow flags may be rare in modern Athens, but an appreciation of the male form persists. As the pictures right show, a new Apollo stands guard over the modern Academy in all his glory life and statues of comely youths can be found in the National Gardens and Zappeion. Yet it was not these images that struck me most forcibly on this short visit, but a photographs I came across on my last afternoon.
I had taken some mildly interesting photographs in Olympieion and left to follow the busy road down to the Ilissus River. To my left, fenced off, was a patch of hillside where scattered blocks of marble lay half-buried by overgrown grass and shaded by low-hanging trees. Somewhere in there was the spot where, nearly 2,500 years ago, Socrates had talked with his pupils.
The road leveled off, became a low, short bridge. I peered over the edge, to see a few disconsolate puddles, all that remained of the Ilissus. Looking up, my eye was caught by a movement further off – a man walking along a path between the trees. The area seemed to be accessible after all. Perhaps I could make my way over there and, if I could not find the plane tree that had offered the philosophers shade millennia ago, I might come across the ancient Kallirrhoe Fountain
I strode down the short road to my left, past a church and a middle-aged woman feeding two large, contented cats and found myself on a small promontory overlooking the overgrown riverbed. From there I could see several men loitering. A new thought struck: that philosophical conversations had given way to more worldly intercourse. I continued to look around, casually inspecting the topography and its inhabitants. All around forty years old. Darker skinned than the average Greek. Not homeless but not well-dressed. Sitting in small groups or walking slowly through the trees. The more I glanced around, the less it seemed to me that this was a cruising ground. Whatever it was these men were doing, they did not seem to welcome strangers. Out of the group a man – my height, well-built, white polo-neck – started towards me, with a purposeful, almost menacing gait. I began to feel as if were into the middle of a Bond movie with one of the villain’s heavies about to attack me.