A protest against legalising same-sex marriage and adoption in Greece drew several thousand people in Athens on Sunday ahead of a debate in parliament next week.

Some 4,000 people responded to a call by Orthodox religious groups, according to police. They gathered on central Syntagma Square, waving Greek flags and brandishing crosses and banners opposing same-sex parenthood.

“Hands off the children,” chanted the crowd, which featured several robed priests and supporters of the far-right party Niki, whose leader Dimitris Natsios was present.

Grigorios Grigorakis, a 57-year-old from Florina, northern Greece, came clutching an icon of the Virgin Mary.

He argued that the reform “goes against normal families”.

“Christ and the Gospel say that a family is a man, a woman and children,” he told AFP.

The Orthodox Church of Greece — which has close ties to many government MPs — has said it is “totally opposed” to the reform, arguing that it “condemns” children to grow up in an “environment of confusion”.

Protester Efrosini, an Athens pensioner, said same-sex couples already have rights under a civil union reform adopted in 2015.

Even Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who is personally championing the bill, has stressed that the changes would benefit just “a few children and couples”.

The bill is expected to split Mitsotakis’ conservative New Democracy, with dozens of the party’s 158 lawmakers likely to oppose it or abstain.

However, it is likely to pass with the support of the main opposition Syriza party, whose leader Stefanos Kasselakis is gay, the socialist Pasok party and other smaller parties.

In the case of same-sex couples, guardian rights are currently afforded only to a child’s biological parent, leaving their partners in legal limbo.

Mitsotakis has said that surrogacy will remain banned for same-sex couples.

Opinion polls indicate that a majority of Greeks support same-sex marriage but oppose surrogacy.

Source: AFP