• Press Release

Cyprus: Marriage equality campaigners celebrate hard-won victory on civil unions

November 27, 2015

The Cypriot Parliament’s recognition of the right to same-sex civil unions is an important first step towards eradicating discrimination and achieving full marriage equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people in Cyprus, Amnesty International said.

Yesterday’s vote shows how far Cyprus has come since decriminalizing same-sex sexual relations in 1998. It was preceded by a lengthy public debate over the past two years following political promises to recognize civil partnerships.

“LGBTI activists in Cyprus have fought for years for this first step in the legal recognition of their intimate relationships. This a positive but long-overdue, and there is still a lot of work ahead before everybody can enjoy full marriage equality under the law,” said Eliza Goroya, Greece and Cyprus Campaigner at Amnesty International.

“This is an important step forward not only for the LGBTI community, but for every marginalized community,” said Costas Gabrielides from the NGO Accept LGBT Cyprus.

While the new law marks a significant move in the right direction, Amnesty International notes that more work is needed to achieve full marriage equality in Cyprus to combat discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Besides falling short of full marriage equality, the organization noted that LGBTI people face continuing discrimination in Cyprus. This includes a lack of joint adoption rights for same-sex couples, the legal recognition of transgender people, and the banning of “normalizing” surgeries for intersex people.

“[The new law] means more people feel safer, not only LGBTI people. The message is that Cyprus is moving forward,” said Alexandra, a 23-year-old lesbian activist. “We now need to fight for full marriage equality and adoption rights, and also the most vulnerable among us: transgender people that are not recognized for who they are.”

The move by Cyprus is expected to buoy hopes for human rights activists and LGBTI people in Greece, where a similar bill on same-sex civil unions is expected to go to a vote soon.

The majority of European states now support full marriage equality or same-sex civil partnerships.