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Greek bloggers fight for gay partnership equality March 21, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Gay Life, Lifestyle, Politics, Religion & Faith.
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More than 200 weblogs have joined an initiative called Greek Bloggers Against Discrimination to campaign against proposed new legislation on domestic partnerships that excludes same-sex couples.

“This discriminatory project has been widely denounced not just by the LGBT community, but also Greek citizens from all walks of life who believe that it violates the Equality clause enshrined in our constitution, as well as the country’s European commitments,” the group said. “We ask our friends in Europe and around the world to help us achieve the widest possible publicity for these initiatives.”

Gay rights group Olke plans to lobby the Greek government and has slammed what they perceive as an unlawful draft bill. Greek government policy is still steadfastly anti-gay. Gay marriage has long been opposed and gays are still barred from entering the military. However, homosexuals in Greece are still seeking a greater voice within their country in recent years, which culminated in the first Gay Pride parade in 2005.

A Greek lesbian couple in Athens are due to attempt to marry in a civil ceremony in the country’s first same-sex marriage. The law does not explicitly proclaim a civil union must take place between a man and a woman and the couple are hoping to take advantage of that loophole.

The Greek Othordox Church’s governing synod has described the plans to afford unmarried or defacto couples the same legal rights as their married counterparts as a “catastrophic bomb” which threatened Greek society and compared the move to “prostitution.”

For a full list of the weblogs that have signed on the initiative > http://gayrightsgreece.blogspot.com/2008/03/domestic-partnership-that-discriminates.html

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A kaleidoscope of sights and sounds March 19, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece, Greece Athens, Lifestyle.
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Crossing the “border” into one of the oldest districts of Athens is like stepping into the past > Historic Kolonos neighborhood in Athens

18-03-08_kolonos1.jpg  Time stands still in courtyards such as this one on the corner of Kallipoleos and Isminis streets (above center), with its lemon trees and vines. It often appears that many residents of Kolonos simultaneously decided that there was no longer a place for them in the historic neighborhood, packed up and left, abandoning business premises and residences.

It must be some time since I last visited Kolonos. In fact I had been once to see an old school that had been converted into the now-well-established Epi Kolono theater on Nafpliou Street. All I had was an image of a quiet neighborhood of low houses, which looked ready to be renovated. I didn’t know much about the neighborhood except that it was one of the city’s oldest, that it used to be a residential area, and is now part of the city’s underbelly.

They told me to start from Petroula Square and radiate out from there, but I decided to do whatever took my fancy. Equipped with map and camera, I felt as if I were crossing a border, a feeling that intensified as I crossed the metal bridge between Larissis and Peloponnisou train stations.

The glare, worsened by the lack of trees, and an otherworldly sense, heightened by the sight of modernization work on the railroad below, made me feel as if I was in a film. On the bridge, I saw a priest who looked Ethiopian, coming in the other direction, his robes fluttering in the breeze. We walked past each other, suspended above the two faces of Athens.

Not knowing what to expect lent the enterprise an element of adventure. It was a holiday morning so the roads were empty and the cafes, one after another, were full, old-fashioned coffee shops named after small towns where men were playing backgammon, on the ground floor of 1970s-80s apartment blocks.

18-03-08_kolonos2.jpg  A tourist in my own city, map in hand, I wandered around streets that seemed mysterious because they were unfamiliar. It may have been because of the holiday, but I was struck by the lack of traffic, entire roads without cars. I photographed a single-story stone house, marked by time but very beautiful against the greenery of nearby Hippeio Hill.

Tall new apartment blocks, some the color of terracotta, others with exaggerated designs on facades painted blue like the provincial houses in the 1960s cast a little shadow on narrow streets. But no matter how aggressive the post-2005 buildings are, they seem better than their predecessors of the 1970s, as if they introduce an air of something new.

There are many sides to Kolonos. I realized this as I went toward Lenorman Street, through narrow lanes and alleyways, where unfamiliar songs and cooking smells wafted out of windows. The suds from cars being washed formed muddy puddles on the ground, children were riding bicycles, families of Gypsies and Pakistanis sat on their stoops. Housewives opened windows, and an elderly gentleman appeared with a hat and cane. Kolonos was proving to be a mosaic.

Many houses have been demolished, many more are sealed up or for sale. I saw lots of pink and yellow walls, all that was left of old houses, at the edge of grassy plots. Some two-story houses still had shiny doors, curtains in the windows, but many 1930s and 1950s houses were vacant.

On the small sidewalk of Distomou Street I stopped in my tracks. On one corner was a newly built two-story house, and opposite was another, almost finished. Both had been designed with architecture and decor magazines in mind. One had incorporated concrete and post-industrial elements into a facade that had something to say. The other was quieter, but with attitude as well, painted salmon with brown windows and a little garden. Might this be the Kolonaki of Kolonos. It didn’t matter, because the rest of the area was living at a different pace.

I found block after block that were purely residential, growing denser toward Lenorman Street. What moved me was encountering entire areas with small houses, 1970s electricity poles, and even older cars parked here and there. It was a journey into the past, as if I was in a 1960s Greek film. The light was so bright and the roads seemed so large because of the low houses and few cars, that it gave me a taste of a past that I never knew.

18-03-08_kolonos3.jpg  On the corner of Kallipoleos and Isminis streets, time had stood still. I glanced into some courtyards surrounded by walls, with their lemon trees and vines. It was all there, the canary in the cage, a plastic basin, walnuts spread out on an oilcloth, In one semi-ruined house on Astrous Street in the heart of Kolonos, I managed to get a rusted gate partially open, squeezed in and entered the living room. Bare of furniture, but with plaster decorations on the ceiling, planks coming away from the floor, a door ajar. Opposite, washing flapped on lines and everywhere brightly colored synthetic blankets were hung out to air on balconies.

A neighborhood is what you choose to see. I noted the endless, colorless blocks of apartment buildings put up by contractors, but I paid more attention to the old sidewalks. In parts of Kolonos the marble sidewalks installed by the City of Athens before the war have survived, elsewhere in Athens they are being ripped out and replaced with concrete. They show that Kolonos has been part of the city for a very long time, though now it looks forgotten beside the railways tracks.

Greek Church against cohabitation March 18, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Lifestyle, Living, Politics, Religion & Faith.
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In the most emphatic fashion, the Church of Greece’s Holy Synod yesterday declared its opposition to the government’s bid to give unmarried couples greater rights by stating that any form of relationship other than a couple married in an Orthodox Church is tantamount to “prostitution.”

The Synod’s reaction signals an about-turn for Archbishop Ieronymos, who last week appeared to accept that changing the bill was beyond the Church’s sphere of influence.

However, this was completely overturned yesterday when the Synod issued a statement saying that it did not approve of the government trying to make its proposals part of the country’s legal framework.

The new law is set to allow unmarried couples to make their relationship official and legally binding by signing a simple notarial contract. This would give each partner the same rights as if the couple were married.

The Synod said that the draft law constituted a “catastrophic bomb” being placed under the foundations of Greek society. “The Church accepts and blesses the established wedding, according to Orthodox traditions, and considers any other type of similar relationship to be prostitution” the Synod said in a statement.

Sources said that Ieronymos had wanted the Synod to adopt a more moderate approach in line with his comments last week but most of the other 12 members of the Synod seemed to favor a more outspoken stance.

“That was the opinion of one person, this is the opinion of 13,” said Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki, a member of the Synod, explaining the difference between Ieronymos’s position last week and this week.

UPDATE >>> 19 March 2008 >>> Ieronymos ire > Archbishop angry with wording of Synod response to cohabitation law

Archbishop Ieronymos, the Head of the Church of Greece, is upset the Holy Synod issued a statement on Monday saying that any form of partnership that is not a marriage sanctioned by the Orthodox Church is “prostitution,” sources said yesterday.

The statement was apparently composed by Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki, who insists that the wording was approved by the entire Synod. Sources said that Ieronymos was disturbed with the strong language used in the statement, although he did not object to the Church expressing opposition to the government’s plans to introduce a cohabitation law.

Gay Greeks cite legal loophole to tie the knot March 16, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Gay Life, Lifestyle.
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A lesbian organization in Greece said Thursday it has discovered a loophole in a 26-year-old law that would allow gays to marry legally.

The group, OLKE, said a 1982 law legalizing weddings in civil ceremonies refers only to participating “persons” without specifying gender. Therefore, OLKE said, it will sue Municipalities that refuse to marry gay couples.

“If the Municipalities don’t give us the OK, the next step will be legal action” OLKE spokeswoman Evangelia Vlami told The Associated Press. “There should be no impediment for us. The law refers to ‘persons,’ not a man and a woman. … So we will proceed as if there is no obstacle.”

Vlami said the group had informed the Justice Ministry of its intentions, ahead of plans by the Ministry to introduce civil partnership legislation later this year granting legal rights to unmarried couples. It was not immediately clear whether gays would be included in the new law.

Gays are protected under Greek anti-discrimination laws, but gay groups complain they face widespread discrimination, in public and at work.

Ministry officials met Thursday with Greece’s new Orthodox Church leader, Archbishop Ieronymos, to discuss the civil partnership issue. The Church is traditionally staunchly opposed to granting gays legal rights, and the idea of common-law unions. But Ieronymos, enthroned last month, has not raised any objections to the proposed reforms. “There is a need to change with the time,” Ieronymos said Wednesday.

Greek teenagers are risking their sex lives March 15, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Health & Fitness, Lifestyle.
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Greek teenagers are having sex at as young as 12 years old but more than half are not using proper methods of contraception, according to figures made public yesterday.

A survey presented at the Family Planning Conference being held in Thessaloniki indicated that the percentage of teenagers who are sexually active had increased from 30 percent in 2003 to 40 percent in 2007.

Almost seven in 10 teenagers have sex for the first time when they are aged between 16 and 18, but roughly one in 10 lose their virginity between the ages of 12 and 14.

A quarter of teenagers use inadequate contraception methods, while another 27 percent use no type of protection at all when having sex, according to the survey.

Privacy Rights for gay men March 15, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Gay Life, Lifestyle.
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Insurance firm fined for using records to deny coverage to gay man

Greece’s privacy watchdog has fined an insurance company 60,000 euros because it illegally delved into the personal records of a client before deciding not to provide him with life insurance because he was gay, sources said yesterday.

The Hellenic Data Protection Authority (APPD) discovered that the insurance firm used the man’s military service record, which showed he had not served because of his sexual orientation, to deny him life insurance. The man already had fire and theft insurance with the company. The APPD considered this to be a breach of the man’s right to privacy by the company, which was not named.

Nation’s first same-sex pair to marry March 15, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Gay Life, Lifestyle.
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Lesbians aim to be first same-sex pair to exchange “I dos” in Greece

A Greek female couple reportedly will attempt to become the nation’s first same-sex pair to marry, in a test of a 1982 civil-union law that does not specify the gender of the participants. Meanwhile, Greek gay-rights group Olke is lobbying the government for equal marriage and adoption rights.

Read this article at > Yahoo!/Agence France-Presse