The island of Cyprus has a hate speech law in place that protects victims of racism and xenophobia. Now the House Legal Affairs Committee has introduced a bill extending similar protection to members of the LGBT community. The bill would create stiff penalties for “homophobic behavior”.
Aristos Damianou, (left) a member of parliament from the liberal AKEL party, told reporters from the Cyprus Mail that they were taking up the bill because:
“In this day and age we are required to do so by our international commitments.”
Mr. Damianou explained the term “homophobic behavior” was chosen for its lack of specificity, telling reporters:
“The definition is purposefully vague so as to give courts the flexibility to judge such cases based on the evidence before them.”
Punishment for anti-gay behavior under the new law can be as much as three years jail time and/or a fine of up to $7,000. (5000 Euros.) The AKEL party is hoping to add the ability for victims of homophobia to sue for damages once it comes up for debate.
Cyprus recently became the last European country to decriminalize gay sex. Cypriots plan to hold their first ever Gay Pride parade at the end of this month, around the same time a civil unions bill is introduced in parliament.
But not everyone is on board with the new leap into modernity.
Archbishop Chrysostomos, the head of the Cypriot Orthodox Church in Cyprus, objected loudly to the bill, saying the government would be guilty of a “weakening moral integrity” if they pass any LGBT protections.
“The statements by the Archbishop are a reminder that opponents of equality are still there, yet also show how far Cyprus’ Orthodox Church is detached from reality.”
Aristos Damianou added:
“What we did, basically, is to ensure that people have a right to choose their partners regardless of whether other people like it or not.”
I think we can put Archbishop Chrysostomos firmly in the “not” category.
A previous edition of this story incorrectly identified Archbishop Chrysostomos as the head of the Catholic Church in Cypress.
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