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Greek Gays Protest Against Government Crackdown on Gay Marriage

Dozens of gays and lesbians protested outside of the Greece's Parliament last September 29 against the conservative government's attempt to overturn the country's first same-sex marriages. Protesters waved banners saying "These Weddings Are Valid" and "I Want to Get Married Too" as they gathered in central Athens as the court ruling on the two marriages will be heard this week.

Last June, a lesbian couple and two gay men took advantage of a legal loophole that does not specify gender in civil weddings. The couples exchanged their vows on the tiny Aegean island of Tilos. The marriages drew strong criticism from the Greek Orthodox Church, which officially represents more than 90 percent of the 11 million-strong population. Meanwhile, Greece's top public prosecutor filed a legal suit aiming to overturn the unions.

"We are here because we want equality," said Christina Neofotistou, a 28-year-old designer who were among the protesters. "These marriages were the first step, but this government wants to cancel it: instead they should be doing something for us."

The Greek government's attempt to squash same-sex marriages is contrary to what some countries in Europe have legislated. The Netherlands was the first EU country to offer full civil marriage rights to gay couples in 2001, with Belgium following the lead in 2003. Spain legalized gay marriage in 2005, despite fierce opposition from the country's Roman Catholic Church.

(Source: International Herald Tribune, Reuters)

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