Senators in Romania voted in September to hold a referendum which would ask voters to decide if the wording of the country’s constitution should be changed so that marriage can only be considered to be strictly between one man and one woman.
The referendum will be held over two days, Saturday, October 6 and Sunday, October 7, after senators voted 107 to 13 in favour of it.
The constitution currently defines marriage as a union between spouses, leaving conservatives concerned that could mean that same-sex couples may be able to wed in the future, although Romanian law currently does not allow same-sex couples to marry.
The far-right group The Coalition of Families created a petition calling for a referendum to be held which would determine if the constitutional definition of marriage should be changed to between a man and a woman, which gathered over three million signatures.
The government showed strong support for the referendum, pushing it forward to be held over the two days so that it had a better chance of reaching the 30 per cent turnout threshold which is needed to make any referendum outcome valid.
A senator for the ruling Social Democratic Party justified the government’s position by saying, “We’ve been a Christian nation for 2,000 years.”
Meanwhile, a lawyer for Romanian LGBT+ group Accept labelled the referendum as a “state-sponsored hatred towards gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, as well as single-parent families.”
Activists and human rights groups, including the European Parliament, have heavily criticised the referendum.
More than 40 MEPs wrote in a letter to Romanian premier Viorica Dancila this week, saying it “adds validity to anti-LGBTI rhetoric and encourages hate speech and violence against LGBTI individuals.”
They continued by saying that the vote promotes “the message that single-parent families, non-married partners with children…and all other families that do not fall under the narrow definition proposed by the referendum do not deserve to be recognised and protected.
“The UN convention on the rights of the child – ratified by all EU member states, including Romania – never defines a family as between one man and one woman, granting all children the same rights, regardless of who is their parents.”
Human Rights Watch dubbed the referendum as “little more than a thinly veiled attempt to scapegoat a vulnerable minority.”
Homosexuality was only decriminalised in Romania in 2002, and attitudes towards LGBT+ people have always been harsh.
The group who circulated the initial petition are notoriously far-right and oppose abortion, divorce, contraception, artificial insemination, sex education, and vaccinations.
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