Greek authorities are considering adopting a law that would allow same-sex couples to be recognised by a civil ceremony, the country’s NET TV said on Monday.

The Greek Justice Ministry pledged to establish a working group on the rights of gay couples living together, which would “analyse all aspects of the issue, international practice and the existing domestic legal and social framework.”

The New Democracy-led government is expected to introduce legislation later in the year that will offer several rights to unmarried couples.

The Minister of Justice has announced to the media that the government is against discrimination and will therefore include same-sex unions in the legislation.

This announcement has caused anger in the Greek Orthodox Church.

Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki said that such a decision would degrade the human species and “make them equal to animals.”

However, Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens has distanced himself from the Holy Synod’s stance on the issue of cohabitation between unmarried couples saying that the Church “should be more open-minded and less moralistic.”

Chruch’s governing synod described moves by the Greek government to afford unmarried or defacto couples the same legal rights as their married counterparts as a “catastrophic bomb” which threatened Greek society and compared the move to “prostitution.”

The Greek government is hoping new legislation will align with similar laws throughout Europe.

The government of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis remains opposed to same-sex marriage.

A survey published on December 2006 showed that 16% of Greeks surveyed support same-sex marriage and 11% recognise same-sex couple’s right to adopt.

These figures are considerably below the 27-member European Union average of 44% and 33% respectively and place Greece in the lowest ranks of the European Union along with Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus.

Gays are still barred from entering the military.

However, homosexuals in Greece are still seeking a greater voice within their country in recent years, which culminated in the first Gay Pride parade in 2005.

A Greek lesbian couple in Athens are due to attempt to marry in a civil ceremony in the country’s first same-sex marriage.

The law does not explicitly proclaim a civil union must take place between a man and a woman, the couple are hoping to take advantage.

The ceremony is set to take place in the Kessariani quarter of Athens and will be officiated by the town’s mayor.