As part of the programme of radical change being ushered in by the new Syriza government in Greece, Justice Minister Nikolaos Paraskevopoulos, today announced plans to expand civil partnerships to same-sex couples. Such partnerships have been available to heterosexual couples since 2008.

Campaigners have been working for years to end the discrimination in Greece; a conservative country with a strong orthodox Christian church. Cases have been brought to the European Court of Human Rights in the past and in November 2013 it was ruled that Greek law is discriminatory. Subsequent announcements from the Ministry of Justice spoke about expanding the registered partnership law but no concrete steps have previously been taken.

Although the ultimate aim of LGBT campaigners is legalisation of same-sex marriage, this is clearly a step in the right direction. The liberal train always takes time to get from total discrimination to total inclusion. In 1968 any act of a homosexual nature was illegal in the UK. By 2014 marriage was open to any two human beings that wished to marry.

It is likely that once the process starts, the changes will happen with time.

Giannis Papagianopoulos, editor of the magazine Anti-virus ( said, “Today’s announcement is very good. We do not have any estimate of when the changes will take place as it has just happened but the reception of the LGBT community till now is enthusiastic. We are also very optimistic right now regarding issues of gender.”

Marianella Kloka, from the humanist association World without Wars and Violence added, “It was about time. Human and civil rights must be respected. All of them together. Some say, why talk about citizenship and not civil partnership for LGBT people? Well, both! And even more must be added to the agenda. As civil society we will urge all governments, particularly this one, to broaden human rights protection.”

It seems that Europe is advancing increasingly in the direction of tolerance and open-mindedness in matters of whom you love and want to marry despite the best efforts of religious, intolerant conservatives. A referendum in Slovakia last week on whether or not further restrictions should be introduced in the area of gay rights was overwhelmingly defeated by a pathetic turnout of 21.4% against a legal requirement of 50% for any decision to be binding. Opponents of the measure had called for voters to stay at home, and it seems the tolerant majority did just that.

The referendum, which had the support of Pope Francis, aimed to reinforce the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman, block same-sex adoption of children and give parents the possibility to withdraw children from sex education classes. It seems that the new Pope’s message of tolerance and openness to all human beings regardless of their sexual orientation has certain limits.