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Greece court invalidates first same-sex marriages performed in country

[JURIST] A Greek court ruled Tuesday that same-sex marriages [JURIST news archive] performed in the country are invalid. Two same-sex couples were married last year [Reuters report] by a local mayor on a small Aegean island, as the 1982 Greek civil marriage law [text, PDF, in Greek; backgrounder] simply saying that marriages must be between two "persons" without specifying that one party must be a man and the other a woman. A local prosecutor had petitioned the court in Rhodes to have the marriages declared void, and the court granted the prosecutor's request, finding that Greek law does not explicitly permit [Kathimerini report] same-sex marriage. The lawyer for the couples said they plan to appeal within the Greek judicial system and then to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website], if necessary.

After the couples were married last June, the Greek Minister of Justice quickly condemned the marriages as legally "non-existent" [JURIST report]. The ceremonies united the couples despite preliminary warnings from top Greek prosecutor Giorgos Sanidas that such marriages are not permissible under Article 21 of the Greek Constitution [text] and that charges would be brought if the mayor allowed the wedding. Earlier last year, the Ministry of Justice established a group [JURIST report] to investigate recognizing same-sex marriages after the Greek National Commission for Human Rights [official website, in Greek] proposed legislation to allow same-sex marriage, but no further action has been taken in Greece on the national level. The influential Greek Orthodox Church [official website, in Greek] is strongly opposed to same-sex marriage.

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