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ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A Greek novelist and his partner on Thursday became the first same-sex couple to be married in Athens’ city hall, three weeks after the legalization of same-sex marriage in Orthodox Christian Greece.

The Greek capital’s mayor officiated at the civil wedding of Petros Hadjopoulos, who writes under the pen name Auguste Corteau, and lawyer Anastasios Samouilidis.

Hadjopoulos said the event was “a dream that we didn’t dare entertain when we were in our teens.”

“There is a symbolism to this,” he told The Associated Press. “I understand that (marriage) doesn’t work for everyone, but for people who grew up in Greece in the 1980s and 90s, when guys like us lived a very lonely existence, even symbols have a great value.”

The couple arrived with their dog, to the applause of more than two dozen guests.

A cross-party majority of Greek lawmakers approved same-sex marriage in a vote on Feb. 15, despite strong opposition from the socially conservative Orthodox Church.

While polls show that a slender majority of Greek public opinion backs same-sex marriage, the Church has been fuming at its legalization. On Tuesday, Church officials on the island of Corfu imposed a religious ban on two local lawmakers who voted for the reform.

The law also confers full parental rights on married same-sex partners with children. But it precludes gay couples from parenthood through surrogate mothers in Greece — an option currently available to women who can’t have children for health reasons.

Athens Mayor Haris Doukas described Thursday’s ceremony as a “historic moment,” and encouraged other same-sex couples to follow suit.

“Every citizen of Athens … should be able to live and love in the way they choose,” he told the AP.

The first same-sex wedding under the new law was held over the weekend in the southern Athens municipality of Nea Smyrni.

Greece is the first majority Orthodox Christian country to allow same-sex marriage. It legalized same-sex civil unions nearly a decade ago.

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