Houses passes gay sex bill
Friday, May 22, 1998
24 Vassiliou Voulgaroctonou St., Nicosia
P O Box 1144, 1502 Nicosia, Cyprus
By Martin Hellicar
After years of political infighting in the face of strong church opposition, House of
Representatives deputies finally bit the bullet yesterday and passed a bill
The controversial legislation was approved with 36 votes for and eight against just
eight days before a deadline set by the Council of Europe for amendment of the Island's
antiquated gay laws.
House President Spyros Kyprianou said afterwards the bill was passed in order to avoid
"serious consequences" for Cyprus' relations with Europe and only after changes
were agreed to include provisions which "clearly state homosexuality is not
The afternoon vote was delayed for more than two hours as party parliamentary teams
wrangled in back rooms to cut a deal to overcome the objections of deputies unwilling to
publicly 'support' homosexuality in the face of Church and public opposition.
Deputies tried all day yesterday to agree a formula whereby opponents of the bill would
simply not attend the vote, as Akel - with 19 representatives in the 56-member House -
were threatening to block it unless unanimous approval was agreed.
But in the end approval seems to have hinged on last-minute adjustments to the bill
designed to ensure sex between consenting adult males was decriminalised but not
Speaking in his office after the vote, Kyprianou - whose Diko party opposed
decriminalisation - did not say what these changes were but made it clear they had been
"I am as religious as the next person, my position is not one of encouraging
homosexuality, but there are new provisions in the bill which clearly state the
non-encouragement of homosexuality," he said.
These last-ditch adjustments also appeared to have dampened Church opposition to the
bill. Speaking earlier in the day, Archbishop Chrysostomos said he had been assured by
deputies the changes would mean homosexuality was not 'promoted'.
"The bill will decriminalise homosexuality but there will be provisions which
allow measures to be taken if, say, a minor is involved or it is done in a public space...
something like that," Chrysostomos said. Such provisions, he said, would "remedy
the situation to some extent".
After the Church leader's statements only three demonstrators turned out to confront
deputies as they entered the House yesterday. Orthodox traditionalists, who have
previously demonstrated in numbers against the bill, had on Wednesday threatened to
blacklist deputies who voted for the bill.
Kyprianou also said Cyprus could not buck the European trend on gay rights without
paying a price. "All European countries cannot be wrong and we right," he said.
The Council of Europe had set May 29 as a final deadline for Cyprus to comply with a
1993 European Court of Human Rights ruling to decriminalise homosexual relations. The
decriminalisation bill was tabled soon after the 1993 ruling but a vote was postponed
repeatedly. Cyprus could have faced expulsion from the Council of Europe for failing to
meet the final deadline.
"It was a serious decision by the House because it was an issue on which there
were strong feelings both within the House and within society," Kyprianou said.
Five deputies of Kyprianou's Diko party (Tassos Papadopoulos, Nicos Moushioutas, Nicos
Cleanthous, Marios Matsakis and Nicos Pittokopitis) voted against the bill while party
general secretary Stathis Kittis was the sole abstainer. The other 'no' votes came from
governing Disy's Stelios Stylianou, Stelios Yerasimou and Evangelos Sammoutas. Eleven
deputies stayed away.
Gay activist Alecos Modinos - who made the appeal to the European Court of justice
which precipitated the bill - said yesterday he was "pleased because the House has
finally done its duty, even if it was at the last minute".
But he reserved final judgment on the new law until after the nature of the
'adjustments' became known, expressing fears that these provisions might amount to
prejudicial treatment against homosexuals.
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