(AP) Greek lawmakers were voting Tuesday on a bill that will allow people to change the gender listed on their identity cards and other official documents at will - a move hailed by the transgender community as a significant step forward, but that carries political risk for the coalition government.
Currently, those wanting to change how their gender is officially defined must prove they have had sex-change surgery and must undergo psychiatric assessment. The new bill would allow documents to be changed following a simple declaration in court, and extends the right to adolescents from the age of 15.
The parliamentary debate was to end in an early afternoon vote. What initially started as a purely social bill has ended up raising the political stakes for the government, which is led by the left-wing Syriza party in a coalition with the small, right-wing Independent Greeks party. Together, they hold 153 seats of the 300-member parliament.
Independent Greeks lawmakers oppose the bill and have said they will vote against, while objections have also been voiced by four lawmakers from Syriza. Other issues raised have included concerns that the law could be used by young men to dodge their compulsory military service.
The main opposition conservative New Democracy party has said it will vote against the bill, submitting instead its own amended proposals on the matter. Several other opposition parties have said they will vote against.
Failure of the bill to pass would rattle the government, and might prompt opposition politicians to call for a vote of confidence.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, speaking in parliament Monday night, insisted the move was a basic human right for a segment of society that has been marginalized for too long.
"We are with those who have no voice or whose voice is being strangled. With the stigmatized, with the repressed minorities, with the people who are living through all kinds of inequality and isolation," he said. "It is those people's rights who we aim to defend."
Transgender community members have said the bill will significantly improve their daily lives by allowing them to have identity papers that match the gender they identify with. The community points out it suffers discrimination and faces problems in simple everyday transactions wherever an ID card is needed, such as carrying out transactions at banks, buying monthly public transport tickets, picking up packages from post offices, renting a home or finding a job.
"Of course we are in favor of the passage of the bill, as this is about our lives," said Anna Apergi, head of a transgender support association who was participating in a rally outside parliament Monday night during the debate for the bill. "It is about recognizing our very existence."