A publicity-seeking attempt by three residents of the island of Lesbos to sue a gay advocacy group has a serious side, says a lesbian rights campaigner.

The Greek island, home to the 6th Century BC poet Sappho, who wrote about female same-sex love, lends its name to the term ‘lesbian.’

“My sister can’t say she is a Lesbian,” islander and plaintiff Dimitris Lambrou told AP.

“Our geographical designation has been usurped by certain ladies who have no connection whatsoever with Lesbos.”

He claimed that the legal action was not motivated by prejudice against sexual minorities.

Lambrou and two others are taking gay rights group OLKE, the Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece, to court to get a ban on anyone except islanders and their descendants using the term lesbian.

Andrea Gilbert, spokesperson for Athens Pride 2008 and a member of OLKE, told PinkNews.co.uk:

“The claim is based in serious prejudice and hatred.

“The term lesbian to define women who love women exists in every dictionary of just about all UN member nations. The term is recognised universally.

“OLKE, the Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece, is a legal entity whose name is legally accepted and registered in Greece. It has existed since 2003.

“This is a ridiculous claim that most Greeks find laughable.

“However, the underlying homophobia and reactionary sentiment is no laughing matter.

“We “despised, name-usurping lesbians” from all over the world bring tons of money to the island in the form of tourism.”

Ms Gilbert said the Lesbos residents taking the case to court claim that the term is used erroneously with reference to Sappho and her academy, whom they maintain has been given a bad reputation over the centuries.

“According to them, the notion that she practiced same-sex love is a heinous distortion,” she said.

“This would be hilariously funny if it wasn’t so pathetic – and so scary.

“Since it’s a universally legally recognised term, their case will likely be thrown out, but with the New Democracy regime, one never knows how much pandering will go on.”

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.

Some LGBT people are still barred from entering the military.

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

The Greek Orthodox Chruch’s governing synod has 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.”

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