By Elias Hazou and Annette Chrysostomou
ACTIVISTS broke out in applause in the House on Thursday as the plenary gave the nod to a much-anticipated bill on civil cohabitation regulating the rights and obligations couples wishing to enter into a union other than a ‘traditional’ marriage.
Despite carrying the full force of traditional unions between two persons, regulating such issues like inheritance, adoptions are forbidden for couples entering into a civil cohabitation.
The prohibition – which some argued is discriminatory – applies to heterosexual as well as same-sex couples.
In theory, however, one or the other individual in a partnership would be able to file for adoption.
That’s because adoption laws allow individuals who are single to adopt children.
On the other hand, MPs had been reluctant to amend current adoption laws, which do not cover civil partnerships.
The bill passed with 39 votes for, 12 against, while three MPs abstained.
DISY had decided to allow its MPs to vote according to conscience. As a result, MPs Andreas Themistocleous, Evgenios Hamboulas, Telis Misos, Efthymios Diplaros, Andreas Kyprianou and Georgios Tasou voted ‘nay’ during the show of hands.
Joining them from AKEL was MP Panicos Stavrianos, and from DIKO Giorgos Procopiou, Sofocles Fyttis and Antonis Antoniou.
Nikos Koutsou, with the Alliance of Citizens, also voted against, as did independent MP Zacharias Koulias.
“This bill is not about homosexuality, rather we are voting for freedom and equality… it is about allowing an alternative union,” said DIKO MP Nicholas Papadopoulos, who was in favour.
Dissenting DISY MP Andreas Themistocleous objected that the bill effectively creates a new type of marriage, which would end up changing the fabric of family life in Cyprus.
Children ought to be raised by a mother and a father, he added.
Members of the Accept-LGBT group, who were inside the parliament watching the debate, cheered as the final vote count was announced.
Members of the group had gathered outside the House in the afternoon to demonstrate in favour of the bill in anticipation of its passage.
“It is a very big step for the LGBT community. It gives promise to gay people that they can be together legally.” Nicholas Tryfon, a member of Accept Cyprus, told the Cyprus Mail.
“We have been fighting for this for the past two years. Since the second gay pride parade it seems there is hope for change generally in the Cyprus community.”
Stalo Lesta from the family planning department talked about a “historic day” for the LGBT community.
“The bill is not perfect but it’s a good start, being accepted legally as same-sex couples and having the rights to love as each person is entitled to. It’s a step also towards fighting homophobia,” she said.
Initially named cohabitation agreement, the law was renamed to civil cohabitation to reflect the fact that it is not an agreement whose terms were decided by the partners, but a state of affairs regulated by law.