Romania’s top court says referendum can go ahead to block marriage equality

Conservatives and religious groups in the country want a referendum to ensure the country’s constitution only recognizes opposite-sex families

Romania’s top court says a referendum can go ahead to effectively block marriage equality coming to the country.

Conservatives and religious groups want the country’s constitution changed. They want it to state Romania only recognizes marriage between men and women. It currently recognizes marriage as being between ‘spouses’.

By changing the constitution, they want to try and ensure marriage equality for gay and bisexual people never becomes legal.

Local organizations, rallying under the banner of the Coalition for Family, organized a mass petition in 2016. They collected over 3million signatures in the largely Catholic country demanding a referendum.

The country’s Lower House voted to approve the referendum last year. Then on 4 September, its Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of holding the referendum.

Local LGBT advocacy groups launched a legal challenge to avoid the referendum going ahead, arguing it was wrong to change the constitution by referendum. However, Romania’s Constitutional Court voted on the matter yesterday.

By a vote of 7-2, it ruled that there was no legal impediment to the referendum going ahead on 7 October. The referendum requires a 30% turnout in order to be binding. That’s over 5.6 million people.

‘Asking people to approve discriminating against their neighbors’
ILGA Europe was one of the advocacy groups to express disappointment at the ruling.

‘This referendum is essentially asking people to approve discriminating against their neighbors, colleagues, friends and family members,’ commented ILGA-Europe’s Advocacy Director, Katrin Hugendubel.

‘Rainbow families, diverse family groups, loving families living in Romania right now are all threatened by this proposal.

Vlad Viski, executive director local LGBTI advocacy group MozaiQ, called the referendum, ‘a direct attack on the LGBT community. It moves Romania into an illiberal direction.

‘We reject this immoral, wrong and unfair referendum. We will not participate in the referendum and will ask people not to validate it by voting. Human rights cannot be subject to a vote.

‘Moreover, politicians are joining hands with extremist and conservative groups in order to demonize and marginalize the LGBT community. I am confident Romanian citizens will understand our message and boycott the vote.’

If less than 30% of the population vote, the referendum result will be nullified.

European Court rules Romania must recognize same-sex marriages in relation to residency rights
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.

Besides the 2016 petition, impetus for a referendum may have been fuelled by a recent European Union court decision. In June, the EU instructed Romania that it had to recognize same-sex marriages of its citizens conducted abroad, for the purposes of immigration.

A Romania man who married his US male partner in the US brought the case to court. The two wished to relocate to Romania. His US spouse, if female, would automatically have been allowed residency rights, but as Romania didn’t recognize same-sex marriages conducted abroad, it was not allowed.

Since the ruling, Romania has recognized same-sex marriages with regard to residency rights, in cases where citizens marry abroad.

by David Hudson
Source – Gay Star News