Monday, June 02, 2008

Top prosecutor moves to block first gay marriage in Greece by island mayor

The Associated Press Published: May 30, 2008

ATHENS, Greece: Greece's top public prosecutor on Friday moved to block a gay marriage ceremony after a mayor on a tiny Greek island said he was willing to perform one.

Supreme Court prosecutor Giorgos Sanidas is trying to stop a ceremony expected to take place this summer on the east Aegean Sea island of Tilos — issuing a directive to prosecutors saying same-sex marriages were illegal.

In March, a lesbian organization discovered a loophole in a 26-year-old law that does not specify gender in civil weddings. Two gay men in Tilos are trying to become the first pair to test it.

Sanidas' directive states that marriage between same-sex couples would be "automatically nullified and considered illegal."

Sanidas said the directive — forwarded to prosecutors on the island of Rhodes — was based on an article in Greece's constitution to protect family rights that defined marriage as being between a man and a woman. Rhodes is the administrative capital for an island group that includes Tilos.

It was not immediately clear if gay groups would try to challenge Sanidas' directive.

On Thursday, Tilos Mayor Tassos Alfieris said he would carry out a ceremony for the men, who took the first official step toward marriage by posting a wedding notice in a Greek newspaper.

No date has been set for the service. Greek civil ceremonies are conducted my municipal officials.

Gay groups in Greece were angered after the conservative government left gays out of plans to create civil partnerships that would improve financial rights for unmarried couples

Justice Minister Sotiris Hatzigakis also said he believed gay marriages could not take place. "This is not possible. It would not be legal," he told state-run NET television.

Greece's influential Orthodox Church has expressed strong objections to gay marriage in the past.

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