Tsipras on passing civil partnership laws: Greek society ‘further ahead than we believed’

The rights of same sex couples and the LGBTQI community were at the heart of an interview with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras published by the “antivirus magazine” on Tuesday, which focused on the civil partnership law passed by Parliament and why this had stopped short of same-sex marriage.

Asked if his government had found it difficult to push the civil partnership agreement legislation through Parliament, Tsipras said that “society proved much further ahead than we had believed.”

“A progressive majority was formed in the Greek Parliament that traversed most of the parties horizontally and reflected the progress that our society has made as a whole,” he noted. That single act of legislation, he added, had helped transform the lives of a great many people.

“We did not strive for the governance of the country only to deal with the problems that resulted in the unprecedented crisis of recent years. Our goal was to try to change the lives fo all citizens, including in the ‘small’ and day-to-day issues. For Greece to become a modern European country in all things, not just the currency,” he said.

Asked why the government stopped at civil partnership and didn’t proceed to legalise marriage and adoption for same-sex couples, the prime minister said the government was taking things one step at a time. Too many “showy” actions that were hurried and ill-prepared entailed a risk of failure, he noted.
Asked about the SYRIZA party’s “cohabitation” with the right-wing Independent Greeks (ANEL) in Greece’s coalition government, the prime minister said that there were differences on ideological issues but “also tolerance of our separate identities.” He further pointed out that, in the case of the civil partnership law, some ANEL MPs had voted in favour.

Pressed on the issue of Church-State separation and why this hasn’t happened, Tsipras replied that “the terms used are sometimes important”.

“We can talk about the same exact thing using terms that are hurtful or terms that can be understood and accepted. When I talk with the Archbishop, therefore, I use the term ‘distinct roles of Church and State’ and I think we understand each other,” he said.

He also pointed out that a discusison on this issue has begun through the government’s initiative to set up a committee of dialogue on revising the Constitution.

“What we want is for this dialogue to not be restricted to the Parliament only and to begin a broad discussion, open to all citizens and social organisation,” he said.

He was also asked about a draft bill on gender identity unveiled by the government for a period of public consultation, finally satisfying a long-standing demand of the LGBTQI community in Greece. He noted that the legislation will allow those that don’t identify with their birth gender to correct this with a minimum of bureaucratic procedures, and without mandatory medical or psychiatric evaluations.
The draft legislation, if passed, will also allow individuals to change the sex on their identity documents through the fast, discreet and confidential process of voluntary jurisdiction, open to all Greek citizens that wish to change some detail of the identity information, without a judge having the power to set additional criteria.

“I believe this is an important as well as fundamental step for modernisation but also deeper equality between all citizens. In this way we align ourselves with the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Charter of Human Rights. The question, of course, is why we are aligning ourselves with such a great delay,” he added.

These two acts of legislation were a debt owed not just to the LGBTQI community but “to ourselves, our ideas and our struggles for equality and justice,” Tsipras said. The Greek State, he added, owned an apology to the thousands of citizens that it treated unequally and in some cases inhumanely for years and this was why he had apologised on behalf of the Greek State in Parliament when the bill of the civil partnership was passed.