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 invalid. No Greek has forgotten the dispute that broke out back in 2008 when the happy couple were married in Tilos City Hall, defying legal restrictions.
Themis Katsagiannis married his partner Dimitris Tsambrounis on Tilos in June 2008, after the island’s left-wing mayor, Tasos Aliferis, agreed to conduct the ceremony and register the couple.
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. Greek society was then torn apart, as gay-rights supporters claimed it was unfair not to allow same-sex marriages to take place, and others denounced the mayor’s disobedience and condemned such “unethical” unions.
Gay campaigners seem convinced 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, he will defer 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, while their marriage is considered invalid.
The London-based human rights student says despite the charges against him, he is pleased his case has finally put the issue of gay marriage on the Greek political agenda. “Up until when we got married, recognizing same-sex relationships wasn’t really an issue or on people’s minds,” he explained. “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 added expressing his optimism for the course of events.
He also says elections on May 6 could turn the tide on gay rights in the country.
“Since then (2008), there have been some polls which show there has been an increase in people’s support for same-sex marriage,” the student said to gaystarnews.com. 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.”
A date for the Supreme Court hearing remains yet to be announced.