Government to look at legalising gay marriage in Cyprus

1 Mar 2010

By Charles Charalambous

THE GOVERNMENT will soon examine the issue of making same-sex marriages legal in Cyprus, Interior Ministry Permanent Secretary Lazaros Savvides has told the Sunday Mail.

Savvides said that the intention is to hold a meeting next month involving the Attorney-general's office, Law Commissioner Leda Koursoumba, Ombudswoman Eliana Nicolaou - who also heads the Authority against Racism and Discrimination - as well as senior representatives of the relevant government ministries.

The move was prompted by a letter sent to the Interior Ministry by a man who lives permanently in Cyprus, asking for the law governing civil marriages to be amended to allow same-sex marriages. Savvides said that the Ministry did not think it should take a decision on such a matter on its own, and so decided to convene the meeting.

According to one press report, the Interior Ministry simply turned down the request, prompting the man to complain in writing to the House of Representatives. The complaint is said to have then been passed on by the House administrative services to members of the House committees for legal affairs and human rights.

In his second letter, the man said that, by being denied the right to marry his male partner under the existing law on civil marriages, he was the victim of a breach of human rights and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

House Legal Affairs Committee chairman and DISY MP Ionas Nicoloau told the Mail that not all committee members received a copy of the complaint.

He said: "Someone contacted me on the matter, but my reply to him was that raising the issue in the House on the initiative of just one party might well lead to it becoming a political football, rather than being treated with the seriousness it deserves. I said it would be better if it came from the government, so the issue will lack political colour."

The meeting scheduled for next month appears to be a step forward, but given the lack of EU legislation on the issue, there is no guarantee that it will conclude that the law on civil marriages should be amended.

The status of same-sex marriage

THE Netherlands was the first country to legalise same-sex marriages (in 2001), with the first marriages performed in Amsterdam City Hall on April 1, 2001. Since then, same-sex marriages have been recognised legally by Belgium (2003), Spain (2005), Canada (2005), South Africa (2006), Norway (2009), Sweden (2009) and Portugal (2010).

Same-sex marriage is not recognised by the US federal government, but is legal in five US states: Massachusetts (2004), Connecticut (2008), Iowa (for 4 hours in 2007 and from 2009), Vermont (2009) and New Hampshire (2010).

So far, just five EU member states have legalised same-sex marriages, but in a number of other European countries - for example, the UK, Germany and Hungary - same-sex civil unions afford similar rights to marriage.

Also, an EU Directive covering freedom of movement recognises same-sex relationships by allowing a worker's family to travel with him or her to another member state, whether or not that family derives from a legal marriage in the origin country. People who are in a formally recognised union, like a civil union or partnership, qualify as family members along with either partner's children, and so do those who have been living as partners for a significant amount of time but do not have the option of legal marriage.

Article taken from Cyprus Mail.