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These Two Countries Are Deciding On The Rights Of Same-Sex Couples

Greece and Slovenia are the latest European battle grounds over partnership rights.

Posted on December 17, 2015, at 5:41 p.m. ET

Protesters march during an 2015 Gay Pride rally in Athens, Greece
Yorgos Karahalis / AP

Protesters march during an 2015 Gay Pride rally in Athens, Greece

Two countries in Europe will hold key tests in coming days on partnership rights for same-sex couples.

One is Greece, where the parliament could vote as soon as Dec. 22 as legislation to open a civil partnership status currently restricted to opposite-sex couples to gays and lesbians.

If it passes, the legislation would bring Greece into compliance with a 2013 ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, one of several recent rulings recognizing rights for same-sex couples under international law, though the court has stopped short of deciding they are entitled to marry.

After years of lobbying, the ruling left-wing Syriza Party proposed legislation allowing for civil partnership earlier this year. Konstantina Kosmidou, who sits on the board of the Greek LGBT organization OLKE and the European branch of the International Lesbian and Gay Association said she expects it to pass by a wide margin when it’s put to a final vote.

“I’m happy — satisfied,” she told BuzzFeed News. “It's a first achievement for everybody.”

The law does not grant all the rights of marriage, dealing primarily with issues like insurance and inheritance and excludes matters including parental rights. But, Kosmidou said, “it’s a first step — this is what they can do.” She said LGBT advocates would return to the European Court of Human Rights after it becomes law to prod the government towards full equality.

Citizens in the former Yugoslav republic of Slovenia have already begun early voting on a referendum ending on Sunday that will decide the fate of a marriage equality law enacted by the Parliament in March. The law made Slovenia the only country in its region with marriage equality, enacted a little over a year after voters in neighboring Croatia passed a referendum barring marriage for same-sex couples.

The law’s opponents gathered more than 80,000 signatures in support of repealing it, twice the number required to put the matter to a vote. The country’s LGBT activists are bracing for a tight vote, but the rules of the election may give them a boost. Not only must a majority of those who cast ballots back repeal of the law, but the repeal vote must total at least 20 percent of the country’s entire electorate. If the election is low turnout, the law could still stand even if a majority vote in favor of repeal.

Simon Maljevac of the Slovenian LGBT organization LEGEBITRA is optimistic that a vote to uphold the law could resonate well beyond Slovenia’s borders.

“We would be the first country not only in the Eastern part of Europe but also in Central Europe that would have full marriage equality,” he told BuzzFeed News. “It would play a big part for the whole region.”