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Romanian rights groups challenge ‘homophobic’ marriage referendum

Romanian rights groups challenge 'homophobic' marriage referendum

Bucharest Pride on 9 June 2018. | Photo: Yellow via Associatia Accept

Rights groups in Romania have made a legal move to block an upcoming referendum on the definition of marriage.

The referendum is due to take place in October.

The groups have said that changing the definition to include only marriage between men and women could negatively affect the LGBTI community.

The referendum is designed to rule on whether the current definition of marriage, which uses the gender-neutral definition ‘marriage between spouses’, should be changed to be only between a man and a woman.

‘If approved, these changes would be a clear backward step for Romania and would have a severe impact on the lives of families not based on marriage,’ said Barbora Cernusaková, a representative of Amnesty International, one of the groups involved in the legal challenge.

Arpi Avetisyan, a lawyer for ILGA Europe, another NGO involved in the legal challenge, said: ‘Instead of recognizing that everyone is entitled to the same human rights and equal protection under the law, this referendum panders to homophobia and might result in constitutional changes that would violate European and international law.’

Romania currently does not have any provisions which legally recognize same-sex marriages. However, the proposed legislation is designed to make it far more difficult to implement any future proposals with an aim to legalizing same-sex marriages.

‘A Christian nation’

The referendum was brought forward in 2016 by a group of conservative NGOs, Coalitia pentru Familie (Coalition for Family), after they submitted a petition to Romania’s government with over three million signatures.

Earlier this week, Romania’s Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of holding the referendum. This follows approval from the Lower House, which voted to approve the referendum late last year.

‘We’ve been a Christian nation for 2,000 years,’ said Serban Nicolae, a senator for the ruling Social Democratic Party.

Many of Romania’s neighboring countries, such as Bulgaria, Croatia and Hungary, have constitutional legislation which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman, according to

A survey by the Pew Research Center released in June included Romania in its list of countries which consider religion to be important in their lives.

‘Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia and Romania, where at least half of people say religion is very important, are above the [Eurpoean] regional average on this measure,’ the report said.

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