Greek Church blasts proposed same-sex civil marriages, will present its views to congregations

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greece's influential Orthodox Church on Tuesday voiced strong opposition to the center-right government's plans to legalize same-sex civil marriages, and said it would present its views to lawmakers and congregations nationwide.

A statement by the Church's governing body, the Holy Synod, said that while legislation is parliament's job, “that doesn't relieve the Church of its duty to inform the faithful.”

The statement said the Church “strongly opposes” the proposed law, which is expected to be debated in parliament in the coming weeks.

While allowing same-sex civil marriages, the draft bill would not permit same-sex couples to acquire children through surrogate mothers — an option currently available only to women who are unable to bear children on health grounds.

Despite the opposition of several lawmakers from the governing New Democracy party's right wing, the proposal is expected to become law with the support of center-left and left opposition parties.

Opinion polls show Greeks to be roughly divided on the issue, with most respondents backing same-sex civil marriages but rejecting gay or lesbian couples' access to parenthood through surrogate mothers. The government has said that it will recognize same-sex couples' parental rights to children acquired through adoption — or through surrogate mothers abroad.

But the Holy Synod argued that the proposed legislation could be successfully challenged in court on grounds of discrimination, leading to the use of surrogate mothers for all.

“The draft law condemns future children to grow up without a father or mother, in an environment where parental roles are confused,” the statement said.

It added that the Church's positions on the matter would be conveyed to congregations following Sunday services on Feb. 4 and published on the Church's website, while letters would be sent to members of parliament.

Greece legalized same-sex civil partnerships in 2015.