Orthodox leaders denounce Greece's new law that allows people to legally change genders

(Reuters/Costas Baltas)Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras addresses lawmakers before a parliamentary vote of a law that allows citizens to declare a gender change on official documents in Athens, Greece October 10, 2017.

Leaders of the Greek Orthodox Church have spoken out against Greece's new law that allows transgender individuals to legally change their gender without the need for medical tests or sterilization.

The legislation, approved by the Greek Parliament with 171 votes on Tuesday, would allow anyone aged 15 or older to change their gender on official documents with a court ruling.

Previously, the law required anyone who wanted to officially change their gender to be diagnosed with a "gender identity disorder" and have their reproductive organs removed, a practice condemned by human rights campaigners.

The new law has been condemned by the Greek Orthodox Church, which holds great sway in Athens as the de facto state religion.

"This... bill is extremely provocative for the core values of society, threatens to dissolve family as an institution and actually undermines and underestimates the value of each and every human being," said Haris Konidaris, the spokesman for Greek Orthodox Church Primate Archbishop Ieronymos.

Following the passage of the law, Orthodox bishops issued a joint document explaining that one's gender "is not eligible to be changed, but is a Divine gift to man to be used in his sanctification."

The prelates urged the parliament to "withdraw the bill," and for the world to stop "strengthening tension, division and absurdity, to contribute to the spiritual uplifting of our citizens."

The legislation was backed by international rights groups as well as the Syriza party, which controls 144 seats in the parliament.

According to Sputnik News, applicants seeking to change genders legally must not be married and must go before a court and receive a writ from a judge. Those between the ages of 15 and 17 are required to obtain a certificate from a medical council at the Athens Children's Hospital.

Additionally, the applicants may only change their legal gender a maximum of two times in their lifetime.

The provision that allows people under the age of 18 to legally change genders was opposed by the New Democracy party.

"For us it is inconceivable to bar 15-year-olds from consuming alcohol, yet enabling them to take such an important decision," said Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the leader of New Democracy, during parliamentary debates.

The New Democracy party, which controls 76 seats in the parliament, stated that the bill was a "sloppy" attempt to divert public attention from Greece's financial woes.

Evelyne Paradis, who serves as the director of European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), called the bill "progress — but not perfect," as the group says it excludes young transgender individuals from securing a legal gender change.

"Today is a great step forward, but it's a shame that the step was not one towards full self-determination for all trans people in Greece," she said in a statement.

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