ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Gay rights advocates in Greece have welcomed a decision by a European court condemning the country for failing to include same-sex couples in 2008 legislation that introduced civil partnerships.
A panel of judges at the Council of Europe's Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday the legislation was discriminatory and ordered the state to pay plaintiffs 5,000 euros ($6,670) each in damages as well as some court costs.
The civil partnerships are favored by couples seeking legal rights outside marriage or who are deterred by lengthy divorce procedures. Grigoris Vallianatos, a prominent gay rights advocate, called it the most important legal victory for gays in Greece in decades.
"This is a landmark decision ... political parties in Greece did everything possible to stop this from happening," Vallianatos told The Associated Press. Government officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Greece has recently toughened anti-discrimination laws, and draft legislation from the Justice Ministry calls for the punishment of acts or incitement to violence against gays with up to three years in prison and a fine of up to 20,000 euros ($26,750).
The reforms were proposed last week following reports by groups monitoring hate crimes that far-right gangs in Greece were increasingly targeting gays in brutal street attacks. Gay rights groups have also repeatedly complained about the negative stereotypes of homosexuals in the media.
Vallianatos, 57, led the court action with his long-time partner Nikolaos Mylonas, 55, and were later joined by three other couples, identified only by their initials in Thursday's ruling by the court based in Strasbourg, France.
"I think everyone in love deserves this decision," Vallianatos said.