Romania — the eastern European country sandwiched between Ukraine, Bulgaria and Greece — has announced that it will hold a national vote on Oct. 7 to decide whether it will specifically ban marriage equality in the country’s constitution. This Romania gay marriage vote follows American evangelicals stoking religious homophobia in the region. LGBTQ advocates add that if ratified, the constitutional amendment could halt LGBTQ equality in the region for years to come.
Last week the Romanian senate approved the ballot measure, and that vote was backed up by a ruling from the country’s Constitutional Court that basically said the vote didn’t violate any other rights guaranteed by Romania’s constitution to its citizens.
The Romanian Constitution currently defines marriage as a union between two “spouses.” This Romania gay marriage ballot initiative will ask voters to change the definition to apply only to “a man and a woman.”
ILGA-Europe — the European chapter of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association — responded to the Constitutional Court ruling by stating, “This referendum is essentially asking people to approve discriminating against their neighbors, colleagues, friends and family members.”
It would be years before the LGBTQ community could potentially repeal the amendment with another public vote.
The government’s move for a ballot measure came in part from a 2016 petition signed by 3 million people asking for the constitution to be changed. It also follows a campaign last fall by the Liberty Counsel — an anti-LGBTQ organization designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center — to promote the Romania gay marriage ballot measure to the country’s highly influential Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic and Orthodox religious leaders.
The Liberty Counsel considers homosexuality an “immoral, unnatural and self-destructive … sexual perversion” and supports laws that criminalize gay sex between consenting adults.
A 2017 poll of Romanian citizens found 74% opposing marriage equality, so the Romania gay marriage vote will likely pass, making Romania the eighth country in the European Union to ban marriage equality. In contrast, 16 EU countries have legalized marriage equality.
Interestingly, Romania offers non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people in housing, employment and public accommodations.
A June 2018 ruling by the European Court of Justice, the judicial body that oversees the European Union’s 28 member nations, said all 28 EU nations must grant legal rights of residence to same-sex spouses legally wed elsewhere, even if their home countries do not allow legalized same-sex marriages.
The European Court of Justice ruling came as a result of a case involving a Romanian man whose American husband was denied residency after the two got married in Belgium.