Greek couple fight law over big fat gay wedding

A student who used legal loophole to marry partner on the island of Tilos in 2008 says legal battle has put gay rights back on the Greek political agenda

A Greek student who took part in the country’s first gay wedding may take lawmakers to the European Court of Human Rights after they declared the marriage ‘did not exist’.

Themis Katsagiannis tied the knot with his partner Dimitris Tsambrounis on Tilos in June 2008, after the island’s left-wing mayor Tassos Aliferis agreed to conduct the ceremony and register the couple.

Mr Aliferis also married a lesbian couple at the same time and conducted the proceedings despite Greece’s top prosecutor having issued a directive saying that same-sex weddings were outlawed.

But gay campaigners believe they found a loophole in Greek civil law, which does not clarify the gender of people wishing to marry.

The District of Rhodes later claimed the marriage ‘did not exist’, a decision upheld by the Court of Appeal in 2011.

Now Katsagiannis is taking his case to the Supreme Court and, if his appeal is not successful, to the European Court of Human Rights.

‘The whole thing was pretty silent,’ the 26-year-old told Gay Star News.

‘Fortunately, we were able to get married really early in the morning before anyone was able to stop us.’

But by the end of June 2008, a lawsuit was filed against the mayor for breach of duty and the couple for being his accomplices. Although the mayor was acquitted, Katsagiannis and his partner still face criminal charges.

The human rights student in London, UK, says despite the charges against him, he is pleased his case has finally put the issue of gay marriage on the Greek political agenda.

He said: ‘Up until when we got married, recognizing same-sex relationships wasn’t really an issue or in people’s minds.

‘But after that happened there was a lot of coverage by the media and it really put the issue on the map for Greece and it’s still much more discussed since then.’

He also says elections on 6 May could turn the tide on gay rights in the country.

‘Obviously, local church parties and the extreme right came out really against our marriage, but it allowed the political left to come out in favor of gay marriage and we did have a lot of support from many people. That was a really positive aspect.

‘Since then, there have been some polls which show there has been an increase in people’s support for same-sex marriage.’

He added: ‘The polls show that there’s probably going to be recognition for leftist parties which already have in their manifesto support for gay rights, same-sex marriage and partnerships.

‘The parties which are probably going to be represented in parliament after 6 May will actually be a lot more in favor of gay rights.’

Human rights group Amnesty International have praised Katsagiannis for his ‘bravery’.

‘Themis is an immensely brave individual and his fight to bring about gay marriage should be an inspiration to anyone,’ a spokesman said.

‘Love is a human right and Amnesty International firmly believes that people should not be discriminated against because of their sexuality.’

A date for the Supreme Court hearing has yet to be announced.

by Matthew Jenkin
Source – Gay Star News