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Greece gay civil union delay draws protests

Greece gay civil union delay draws protests

About 500 gay rights activists protested outside the Greek parliament in Athens on Friday evening after legislation on civil unions for gay couples was delayed.

Nearly three years after it was first brought to parliament, lawmakers approved a bill that criminalizes the incitement of violence on the basis of race or sexual orientation, but civil unions were left out of legislation.

Justice Minister Haralambos Athanasiou said further study was needed on how the civil unions would affect tax, social insurance and family law.

‘I think it is an issue that requires us to respect the detail and the sensitivity involved… and should not be added on to the legislation we are currently discussing,’ he told parliament.

Last November, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Greek legislation on civil unions was discriminatory and ordered the country to pay damages to the four gay couples who took the case to court.

Another 162 gay couples have since filed complaints to the court in an effort to pressure the government to change the law.

Five homophobic attacks were reported in Athens in the last three months, although rights groups say many more go unreported.

Last month, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Nils Muiznieks, said in a statement, ‘The reported rise of homophobic attacks and the continuing racist hate crime in Greece signal the urgent need to adopt and effectively implement comprehensive legislation in order to eliminate intolerance, hate speech and violence in the country.’