Two couples, one gay and one lesbian, have been married in a civil ceremony in Greece.

The Mayor of the small island of Tilos today married the couples in spite of warnings from government that the ceremonies are illegal.

Newlywed Evangelia Vlami told the BBC after the ceremony at dawn:

“From this day, discrimination against gays in Greece is on the decline. We did this to encourage other gay people to take a stand.”

Last Friday Supreme Court prosecutor Giorgos Sanidas said Greece’s constitution defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

He has written to prosecutors outlining how Article 21, “the family, being the cornerstone of the preservation and the advancement of the Nation, as well as marriage, motherhood and childhood, shall be under the protection of the State,”means same-sex marriage is illegal.

In March a gay and lesbian rights organisation threatened to sue local authorities who refuse to marry same-sex couples after discovering that a 1982 law on civil wedding ceremonies refers only to “persons.”

The Lesbian and Gay Community of Greece (OLKE) announced its intention to test their interpretation of the law.

Since then a gay couple have taken the first official step toward marriage by posting a wedding notice in a newspaper.

The Mayor of a small island in the Aegean, Tilos, had offered to marry the men.

Tilos has a population of less than 600.

Gay groups in Greece were disappointed earlier this year after the conservative government left gays out of plans to create civil partnerships that would improve financial rights for unmarried couples

The Greek Orthodox church, which still retains considerable influence, is opposed to equality for gay couples.

Despite its membership of the EU, Greece fails to provide many rights that LGBT people in other member states enjoy, such as an unequal age of consent.