LGBT rights in Greece

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This article is concerned with the situation in the modern Greek state. For information about homosexuality in antiquity, see homosexuality in ancient Greece.
LGBT rights in Greece
Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1951,
age of consent not equalized
Gender identity/expression Yes (sterilisation required for the change of legal gender)
Military service Homosexuality by itself doesn't lead to exemption from conscription. Transvestism is covered under reasons for exemption
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation protection in employment since 2005 (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex couples
Adoption No joint adoption by same-sex couples[1]

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Greece may face legal and social challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal in Greece. However, households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex couples.


Legality of homosexuality[edit]

Male homosexual practice was decriminalized in 1951. Male prostitution has been legal since May 2006. Lesbians are not mentioned or acknowledged in the Greek Criminal Code. There is one relevant provision in effect to this day in the Criminal Code;

  • Article 347 of the Greek Criminal Code; which provides for a higher age of consent of 17, for seducing a male person if the male partner is over 18 and for lesbians and both male/female heterosexuals (regardless of close-in-age or not) and for only close-in-age for male homosexuality, the age of sexual consent is 15.

Recognition of same sex couples[edit]

The Greek constitution provides no definition of marriage. It does stipulate that, like motherhood and childhood, it must be under the protection of the State.[2]

Greece's left party Coalition of the Radical Left, reportedly supports same-sex marriage and Alekos Alavanos, the former leader of Synaspismos, stated that the coalition backed the fight against all kinds of discrimination and supported the free expression of sexual orientation including the legalization of same-sex marriages.

The former government of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis New Democracy was opposed to same-sex marriage. While the New Democracy-led government has introduced legislation that offers several rights to unmarried couples, this explicitly includes only different sex couples.[3]

The National Human Rights Committee proposed a registry that would cover both same-sex couples and unmarried heterosexual ones[4] and the Greek group OLKE announced its intention to sue Greek municipalities that refuse to marry gay couples.

The Greek government under George Papandreou, leader of Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), was preparing legislation for same-sex registered partnerships.[5] Haris Kastanidis, the current minister for Justice, Transparency and Human Rights, during an interview on Greek Radio Station VIMA 99.5 on 17 September 2010, said: "The ministry of Justice in cooperation with the General Secretariat of Equality has constituted a legislative standing committee that will make the relevant proposals" for same-sex partnerships and that the government's political will is obvious towards this matter.[5] In the Greek newspaper To Vima (10 October 2010) it is mentioned that this committee "was constituted on 29 July 2010 and, according to its members, its work is to make proposals regarding the modernization of Family Law. Until now, matters regarding heterosexual couples have been discussed, while those regarding same-sex couples will be discussed after January 2011".[6]

In November 2013, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favour of the plaintiffs in the case "Valianatos and others vs. Greece" and condemned the exemption of same-sex couples from the option of civil unions; the restriction of civil unions solely to opposite-sex couples was thus deemed non-convincing and the Greek state has been obliged to give a 5000 euro compensation to each one of the plaintiffs.[7]

Although there is no official recognition of same-sex couples, a 1982 law that legalized civil marriage between "persons", without specifying gender, acted as a test-case for same sex marriage. On 3 June 2008, the mayor of Tilos, Anastasios Aliferis, married two homosexual couples, two lesbians and two gay men, citing the legal loophole. He was heavily criticized by clergymen of the Church of Greece, which in the past had also opposed the introduction of civil marriage. Justice Minister Sotirios Hatzigakis declared the Tilos marriages "invalid" and Supreme Court prosecutor Georgios Sanidas warned Mayor Aliferis of the legal repercussions of his "breach of duty", but he said he had "no intention of annulling the marriages".[8][9][10]

In May 2009 the marriage was officially annulled by the authorities. The couples appealed the annulling and they claim they are willing to take the case even to the European Court of Human Rights, if they don't find justice in Greek courts.[11]

Legal protections[edit]

Since 2005, anti-gay discrimination in the workplace is prohibited. Under a new anti-racism bill which was submitted to parliament in September 2014 the law would provide protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.[12]

While there has been considerable legal progress, conservative social mores still hold considerably influence. Public displays of affection between same-sex couples are widely frowned upon[citation needed] and the Orthodox Church has often denounced homosexuality as a sin and "defect of human nature."[13]

Although not widely known, Greece is a country where gender identity is best protected by the law. According to law 3896 of 2010, discrimination on the basis of gender identity is considered equal to discrimination on the basis of sex and thus all laws regarding the latter cover discrimination on the basis of gender identity too.[14] Furthermore, transgender individuals have the right to change the sex of their birth certificate with an application to a court of first instance that always gets accepted by default.[15]

In September 2014 the law against racism was adjusted. After the changes, hate speech and violence against LGBT individuals or groups is punished with imprisonment of 3 months to 3 years and a fine of €5.000 to €20.000.[16] If the illegal behaviour described above has led to a crime, the penalty is enhanced with 6 months imprisonment and a fine of €15.000 to €30.000 extra. If the final imprisonment exceeds 1 year, then the convict loses his/her political rights for 1 to 5 years. If the offender is a public worker then the imprisonment and the fines are raised even more. If the offender was committing the above representing an organisation or company, they are also fined. The public domain is, however, excluded from this last rule which lead to a lot of criticism, because, since the churches are also legal entities of the public domain, they are excluded from any consequences after the conviction of a priest of theirs. Finally, the public procecutors are given the freedom to move against the offenders even without a lawsuit from the victims and even if the victims file a lawsuit, they are allowed to do it free of charge, in contrast to the common practice.

Social conditions[edit]

Gay culture[edit]

Athens has a large number of LGBT associations and a developing gay village in the Gazi, Athens neighborhood. A gay pride event, the 'Athens Pride' and an international Gay and Lesbian film festival, the 'Outview', are held annually.

There is also a big gay scene in Thessaloniki with gay/lesbian bars/clubs and several friendly mixed venues, and several LGBT organisations. In June 2012 the city got its own annual pride event (Thessaloniki Pride). One of the most notable events in Thessaloniki, concerning LGBT rights, is the attempt to raise a 20m long banner, urging people to boycott the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, on the towns' most famous landmark, the White Tower. The attempt was quickly stopped by the local police, but the event was advertised in online media.

The gay scene in the island of Myconos and the lesbian scene in Eressos, Lesbos are famous internationally.

Athens Pride[edit]

The Athens Pride is an annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride parade and festival held every June (since June 2005) in the center of Athens city, Greece. It has been held 11 times:

  • 25 June 2005
  • 24 June 2006
  • 23 June 2007
  • 7 June 2008
  • 13 June 2009
  • 5 June 2010
  • 4 June 2011
  • 9 June 2012
  • 8 June 2013
  • 14 June 2014
  • 13 June 2015

Thessaloniki Pride[edit]

Thessaloniki staged its annual pride event for the first time in 22–23 June 2012, following Mayor Boutaris's promise to back a public LGBT event in the city. The first Thessaloniki Pride festival enjoyed massive popular support[17] from the city, its periphery and the region, which was a heavy blow for the city's metropolitan Anthimos, who had called believers to react.[18]

One year later, in one of his announcements just a few days before the pride event of 2013, he stated that, the Holy Metropolis of Thessaloniki would once again have to tolerate the sad and unacceptable festival of the homosexuals who want to "celebrate their sickness in a carnival sort of way". He also asked parents to keep their children and themselves away from "such pointless and unnatural celebrations". However, many families were present and the two-day festival ended in a festive atmosphere with many parties, galleries and celebrations all around the city.[19] The 2nd Thessaloniki Pride was dedicated to freedom of any kind, including the freedom of gender expression.

In 2014 Thessaloniki was the European Youth Capital and the 3rd Thessaloniki Pride was included to its official programme.[20] Accordingly, it was dedicated to LGBT youth and their families. By general assessment the 2014 pride event was a major success, with the participation of 10,000 people in the parade, along with the city mayor and a block of diplomats.[21] Some described it as best LGBT pride festival that Thessaloniki has ever had.[22]

That year, vigil masses took place along with gatherings of believers, where priests made an outcry over the "desecration of holy Thessaloniki", the "imposition of Islam and homosexuality by the New World Order, the gay pride events which are part of a Western conspiracy, the "appointment of homosexual male and female bishops and protested over the victory of Conchita Wurst at the Eurovision Song Contest.[21][23] Metropolitan Anthimos once again made similar comments about it in an interview, deeming it as "disgraceful", "challenging", "a perversion of the human existence", adding that the Church orders to "Not give what is holy to dogs". He also claimed that the use of the term "festival" for the event is erroneous.[24]

The festival has been held four times.

  • 22–23 June 2012
  • 14–15 June 2013
  • 20–21 June 2014
  • 19–20 June 2015

Crete Pride[edit]

The first gay pride of Crete was held on 26–27 June 2015 in Heraklion, becoming the island's first "Festival for Gender and Sexuality Liberation Visibility".[25]


Discrimination by the Greek Church[edit]

Responding to government proposals in 2008 to introduce legal rights for cohabiting couples, Archbishop Ieronymos II of Athens, the leader of the autocephalous Orthodox Church of Greece, suggested that "There is a need to change with the time". It is unclear, however, whether this view applied to same-sex couples, particularly as the Church has previously opposed gay rights in general and civil union laws in particular.[3]

Following government talks in November 2013 regarding the legalisation of civil unions for homosexual couples, the Metropolitan of Piraeus Seraphim voiced vehement opposition against it, threatening that he can and will excommunicate any MPs who should vote for it. Moreover, he added that the bill "legalises the corruption of the human existence and physiology and cements the psychopathological diversion that is homosexuality". Additionally, he mentioned that such movements constitute "significant offenses of public decency" by sending out messages of "perverted sexual behaviours" to young people that "torpedo the foundations of family and society".[26]

In August 2014, during discussions about the long-awaited vote for an anti-racism bill, several Metropolitans voiced their opposition to it due to certain articles pertinent to the criminalization of hate speech against, among others, homosexuals, with increased penalties for civil servants (members of the clergy included) who engage in it during their duties.[27] The Metropolitan of Piraeus Seraphim accused the Greek PM Antonis Samaras of "selling his soul for a few extra months in office", criticized the draft law for "the introduction of other sexual orientations and other gender identities", the fact that the "psychopathological aversion and the inelegant mimicking of the other sex" would be protected by Greek law and compared homosexuality with paedophilia and bestiality.[28]

The Metropolitan of Gortyna Ieremias, citing Bible passages, called homosexuals "dogs", protested the fact that, under the new bill, "several prophets and Saints would be regarded as racists", characterized it as a "horrible and deplorable" law while adding a homophobic word play. At the same time, the Metropolitan of Konitsa Andreas rejected the bill under the claim that it aims to "cover the perversion that is homosexuality".[29] The religious reaction eventually resulted in Antonis Samaras accepting the church's objections and not including articles relative to the protection of homosexuals in the bill. Moreover, the PM reassured the religious leaders who dissaproved of the bill that, "as long as he is in office, there's no way the parliament will expand civil unions to same-sex couples".[30][31]

In September 2014, provisions on the criminalization of hate speech towards LGBT individuals were approved (civil unions for same-sex couples were not). The criminalization of LGBT-oriented hate speech led to the once more furious reaction of Metropolitan Seraphim who called the law "an oppresion of the Greek Justice system" and "the cancellation of the freedom of speech" as imposed by "the nationalistic system and the New World Order instructors".[32]

Media and public bodiesdiscrimination[edit]

Several issues have been raised about the Greek media and their frequently discriminatory attitude towards LGBT individuals such as through the use of censorship, something partly attributed to the regulation authority, or Greek National Council for Radio and Television (NCRTV). Below is a list of some homophobic/transphobic incidents by the Greek media and other companies and bodies.

  • On November 2003, NCRTV fined one of the largest TV networks in Greece, Mega, with 100,000 Euros,[33] partly for having aired a kiss between two male characters of the popular TV show 'Klise ta Matia' (Greek: Κλείσε τα Μάτια). In December 2006, Greece's Council of State, the country's Supreme administrative court, annulled this decision, ruling that NCRTV's fine was unconstitutional. According to the court, the TV scene reflected an "existing social reality, related to a social group, among many that make up an open and democratic society, whose sexual preferences are not to be condemned".[34] Moreover, this was not the first time that a kiss between two male characters was aired in Greek television and the decision was heavily criticised by the Greek media as hypocritical and anachronistic.
  • On 21 December 2004 the NCRTV fined '94 Epikoinonia FM' (Greek: 94 Eπικοινωνία FM), a municipal radio station in Athens, with 5,000 Euros, judging the content of the 'Athens Gay and Lesbian Radio Show' as "degrading",[35] resulting in the station cancelling the show. There is not any kind of radio information about LGBT matters anywhere in Greece since.
  • In September 2005, NCRTV formally enquired another one of Greece's largest TV networks, ANT1 (Antenna), for airing a publicity spot, by a popular chewing gum brand, depicting two women kissing.
  • On March 2010, Greek channel Mega was fined for airing the Greek movie "Straight Story," whose plot revolved around the story of a straight man in a fictional world in which homosexuality was the norm and heterosexuality was frowned upon.
  • On April and May 2010, the Greek Star Channel was fined for two episodes of its show "Fotis & Maria Live". In both episodes, there were trans guests.[36]
  • Starting from 2012, the terms "gay", "lesbian" and "transvestite" are being bleeped on the episodes of ANT1's comedy series Konstantinou kai Elenis.
  • On 15 October 2012, ERT aired the pilot episode of British television series Downton Abbey, cutting out a scene depicting two men kissing. The managing director of ERT, Costas Spyropoulos, cited timing of the programme (aired at 10pm local time) and parental guidelines as reasons for the episode not being aired in full. But after wide protest the episode aired fully a few days later and at an even earlier hour (7pm). Spyroploylos was heavily criticised by media and the general director of state TV, who formally apologised for the censoring.[37]
  • On February 2013, the terms "gay" and "lesbian" appear in the form of dots in the subtitles of a foreign programme on MTV Greece, despite the fact that the programme was broadcast late at night.
  • On 17 May 2013, one day after the second semi-final of the 2013 Eurovision contest where Krista Siegfrids, representing Finland, performed the song "Marry me" and symbolically kissed a female dancer as a way to push for marriage equality in her country, the Greek gossip TV show "FThis TV" of ANT1 channel blurred the kiss between the two women when showing footage from the contest.
  • On June 2013, the NCRTV rejected the request of the 2013 Athens LGBT pride organisers to air the event's TV spot free of charge in all of the major Greek TV channels as it wasn't deemed as a public service message. The NCRTV representatives claimed that their decision was taken on the grounds that there was a scene with two women kissing.[38]
  • On July 2013, the term "gay" is translated as "girly" in the subtitles of the comedy series Joey on Star Channel. At the same time, the same channel is criticized for its conservatism and homophobia when it comes to the translation of the series Gossip Girl; following the remarks of the NCRTV regarding the frequency of issues referring to homosexuality, sex and drugs in the show and the channel's unwillingness to move the series to a later hour, a middle solution was found that allowed it to keep the show at the same time but to be much stricter in the translation of words relevant to the aforementioned topics, with the result that terms such as "lesbian" are translated as "tomboy", "not-so-womanly" or "spinster".[39]
  • In September 2013, a scene from the popular series Glee showing a lesbian couple kissing on a bed without the portrayal of any nudity was censored by Alpha TV.[40]
  • The company running Athens Metro refused to placard posters of the upcoming pride event at metro stations in 2013. In 2014, it once again rejected the request of the Athens pride organisers on the grounds of lack of space for the placement of advertisements.[41]
  • In September 2015, the NCRTV imposed a fine on Skai TV for broadcasting two shows relating to, among others, gay and lesbian sex. The channel responded by turning to the Council of State, which, however, declined the former's request to cancel the fine by adding that the shows "did not have the appropriate level required by the social mission of television".[42]

Homophobia by politicians[edit]

  • In August 2014, Nikos Nikolopoulos, a Greek MP, wrote an insulting tweet[43] on his personal account commenting on the marriage of Luxembourg's PM to his partner. In it, he said "From Europe of nation countries, to Europe of ... faggots - the president of Luxembourg got engaged to his lover". The tweet outraged many Greeks,[44] who asked for an intervention by PM Antonis Samaras and complained about the fact they have to put up with seeing people in power attacking the homosexuals. Nikolopoulos' statement went as far as alert the Luxembourgian PM himself who replied to his tweet by saying that the relations between Luxembourg and Greece are perfect and won't be affected by an isolated politician. Nikolopoulos insisted by defending his point, saying that the PM should be ashamed.[45][46][47][48][49]
  • Tasos Neradgis, a New Democracy MP, also took part in the dispute over the inclusion of same-sex couples in the civil union law making similar comments with Nikolopoulos; after comparing homosexuality with bestiality and paedophilia, he added that civil unions for homosexuals "have no place in our country".[50][51]

Public opinion[edit]

Circle frame.svg

Support for same-sex civil partnership (May 2015 poll) [1]

  For (70%)
  Against (20%)
  Don't know (10%)

Circle frame.svg

Support for same-sex marriage (May 2015 poll) [2]

  For (56%)
  Against (35%)
  Don't know (9%)

Circle frame.svg

Support for same-sex adoption (May 2015 poll) [3]

  Against (56%)
  For (30%)
  Don't know (14%)

On May 12, 2015 Greece has seen the first survey ever showing majority support for same sex marriage at 56% while 35% opposed it.The survey was based on 1431 respondents and was conducted by Focus Bari. A very high percentage of respondents (76%) agreed that homosexuality should be accepted by society while 70% agreed that civil partnerships should be extended to gay couples. However respondents remained sceptical about adoption from same sex couples with only 30% supporting it while 56% opposed it. Only 14% believed that homosexuality is a mental disorder and 54% stated that stricter laws should exist to punish homophobic crimes (hate speech in particular). [4]

On April 11, 2015 the newspaper TO VIMA published a survey conducted by Kapa Research which showed that 39.3% of respondents supported same sex marriage while 50.5% were against it. On the same survey 65.6% of respondents agreed with the statement that homosexuality should be accepted by society while 28.2% believed that homosexuality should not be accepted by society [52][53]

A survey among Greek MPs, conducted in 2003 and presented by the Hellenic Homosexual Community (EOK), raised the issue of recognising taxation, inheritance and other legal rights to same-sex couples. The results of the survey showed that 41% of parliamentarians surveyed favored granting such rights while 55% were against it. Among PASOK MP's, 55% were favorable, compared to just 27% of New Democracy MPs. The party with the highest MP favorable responses was Synaspismos (67%) while the majority of Communist Party MPs abstained. MPs favorable responses were higher among women, younger and Athenian MPs.

A study among Greek students of the Schools of Health and Welfare professions (social work, nursing & medicine) in Iraklion, Crete published in 2006 surveyed their attitudes towards male homosexuality. Two scales were used and translated into Greek along with several questions that formed a self-completed questionnaire. The main findings showed that there were differences among the schools in terms of homophobic expression and that "the main predictors influencing homophobia score were: willingness to defend and protect gay rights, conversations with gay individuals, religiosity, politicization and having gay friends".[54]

A Eurobarometer survey published in December 2006 showed that 15% of Greeks surveyed supported same-sex marriage and 11% recognised same-sex couple's right to adopt.[55] These figures were considerably below the 25-member European Union average of 44% and 32% respectively and placed Greece in the lowest ranks of the European Union along with Romania, Latvia, Poland, Cyprus, Malta and Bulgaria.[56]

A Eurobarometer survey published in January 2007 ("Discrimination in the European Union"), showed that 77% of Greeks believed that being gay or lesbian in their country 'tends to be a disadvantage', while the European Union (EU25) average was 55%. 68% of Greeks agreed that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was 'widespread' in Greece (EU25: 50%), and 37% that it was more widespread in than 5 years before (EU25: 31%). 84% of Greeks also reported not having any gay or lesbian friends or acquaintances (EU25: 65%).[57]

A Kapa Research (major Greek polling firm) survey on behalf of the Greek "Institute of Psychological & Sexual Health" published in the Greek newspaper Ta Nea on 20 September 2010[58] showed that 63.9% of Greeks agree with the legalization of same-sex partnerships and 24.1% disagree; as for the legalization of same-sex marriage, 38.5% of Greeks agree and 51.8% disagree.[59]

In June 2013 The Pew Research Center released data where they conducted surveys of respondents in some 40 countries on the question of whether the respondents believed their society should or should not accept homosexuality. Pew Research questioners scientifically asked respondents in Greece this question and found that amongst those asked, a majority 53% of those Greek respondents believed their society should accept homosexuality, while 40% of the respondents believed that society should not accept homosexuality. Amongst those Greeks surveyed between the ages of 18 and 29 years of age support for society accepting homosexuality was at a higher 66% than the overall 53%. For those respondents aged 30 to 49 support was too at a higher 62%, but a lower 40% for those respondents 50 years and older.[60]

It is reported that, following the rise of the neo-nazi far right party Golden Dawn, homophobic and transphobic incidents have multiplied.[61] Apart from homophobic comments by the party such as the theory that gay men lack manliness,[62] their calling the German minister Guido Westerwelle "Madam" because of his being openly gay [63] etc., the party also actively urges its supporters to not accept homosexuality. A very infamous statement by the party addressed to gay men and women is "After the immigrants, you're next".[64] Golden Dawn's homophobic opinions have given way to a sharp increase in homophobic attacks,[65][66] whereas allegations that members of the Greek police force cooperate with Golden Dawn members [67] may explain why several trans women were recently arrested during the Thessaloniki pride for no reason by the police, bruttally attacked and illegally detained on the grounds of "keeping the city clean".[68][69]

Answer Ages 18–29 Ages 30–49 Ages 50 or higher Men Women Total
Yes 66% 62% 40% 47% 59% 53%
No n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 40%

[The 2013 PewResearch Centre report. Question: Should society accept homosexuality?]

Summary table[edit]

Topic Status
Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1951)
Age of consent equalized No
Homosexuals allowed to serve in the military Yes (Since 2002)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment Yes (Since 2005)
Right to change legal gender (after sterilisation) Yes (Since 2010)
Anti-discrimination laws covering gender identity in all areas Yes (Since 2014)
MSMs allowed to donate blood No
Same-sex marriage legal/recognised No
Cohabitation Agreements for same-sex couples No (Proposed)[70]
Joint adoption by couples of the same sex No
Step child adoption by couples of the same sex No
Access to IVF for lesbian couples No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
Gay conversion therapies banned Yes (was never in force)
Homosexuality declassified as an illness Yes ( Since 1990)
Transexuality and transvestism declassified as illnesses Unknown

LGBT history in Greece[edit]

See also[edit]



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External links[edit]