Gay Marriage (a.k.a. Same-sex Marriage) In Romania
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Gay Marriage (a.k.a. Same-sex Marriage)

In Romania

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Background:

Romania is a country with a population of about 20 million persons in southeast Europe. It is famous for its preserved medieval towns, fortified churches, and castles. Its capital city is Bucharest. It shares borders with five other countries: Moldova, Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia and Bulgaria. It is famous for its Dracula legend; he was also known as Vlad Dracul III, Vlad Tepes or Vlad the Impaler (1431-1476 CE).

The country's 2011 census found that 81% of the population are Orthodox Christian, 6% Protestant Christian, 5% Roman Catholic, 2% other, 0.2% not religious. 6% gave no answer.

Article 48 of Romanian's federal Constitution currently states:

"The family is founded on the freely consented marriage of the spouses, their full equality, as well as the right and duty of the parents to ensure the upbringing, education and instruction of their children." 1 (Bold letters were not bold in the original)

The passage has two obvious weaknesses:

  • It doesn't restrict the number of spouses involved in a marriage. By tradition, this would be only two. But the clause does not eliminate the possibility of a polygamous relationship, say between one man and two women.

  • It doesn't restrict the sex of the spouses. This would have been no problem in the past, when monogamous marriages were restricted to one man and one women by tradition. However, with gay/same-sex marriages being gradually legalized in progressive countries around the world, a same sex couple in Romania might consider launching a lawsuit to seek permission to marry. Their case could be based on Article 48, noting that the constitution did not specifically outlaw marriages of two men or two women.

During 2013, there was an attempt to modify Article 48 to clarify that gay marriages are forbidden. However, the United States and some European governments successfully lobbied against a change in wording at that time. A conservative Christian news website, Agenda Europe, stated:

"It is believed that a very considerable majority of the Romanian population has strongly resented this interference from outside and remains in strong opposition to the absurd idea of same-sex 'marriages'." 1

Enclosing the word 'marriage' within quotation marks when the term refers to a same-sex couple is a common way in which religious conservatives belittle marriage equality.

Referendum scheduled:

The Romanian group Coaliția pentru Familie (Coalition for the Family) is a group of 23 conservative non-government organizations in the country. They collected over three million signatures from people who favored holding a referendum to amend Article 48. This is six times the minimum number required.

The Article's new wording would be:

"... the family is founded on the freely consented marriage between a man and a woman, their equality, and the right and duty of parents to ensure the upbringing, education, and instruction of children." (Bold letters were not bold in the original)

Coalition President, Mihai Gheorghiu, said that the public's response is:

"... a signal, a confession, a warning to political and government leaders."

Another "warning" against marriage equality was a country-wide poll that showed 88% support for a ban on gay marriages!

During 2016-JUL, the country’s Constitutional Court approved the referendum. 1 The next step was to have both houses of the federal government to authorize the referendum.

On 2017-MAY-09, the Chamber of Deputies -- the lower house in the Romanian federal government -- passed a bill to enact the referendum. The vote was 232 to 22. 2,7

On 2018-SEP-04, the Senate's legal committees approved the initiative. The full Senate also gave its approval on SEP-11 with a vote of 107 to 13. Senator Serban Nicolae of the ruling Social Democratic Party, implied that the vote was based on religious grounds. She said:

"We’ve been a Christian nation for 2,000 years." 3

The pro-LGBT equality group Accept condemned the vote, accusing the Senate of:

"... raising homophobia to state value and sacrificing constitutional protection for many families." 3

The amendment was opposed by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, and the opposition party Save Romania Union, 7 It is also opposed by the Romania Together Movement, who based their decision on discrimination against persons with a homosexual or bisexual orientation that the referendum would cause. However, it was enthusiastically supported by the Romanian Orthodox Church and other faith groups in the country.

On SEP-14, Amnesty International; ECSOL, the European Commission on Sexual Orientation Law,and ILGA-Europe filed a challenge with the Romanian Constitutional Court against the amendment. 7

Also, on SEP-14, Barbora Černušáková -- Amnesty International’s researcher on Romania -- said:

"If approved, these changes would be a clear backward step for Romania and would have a severe impact on the lives of families [led by same-sex couples] ..." 8

On SEP-17, the Romanian Constitutional Court gave its final authorization for the referendum, with a vote of 7 to 1.

ILGA, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association is a worldwide federation of more than 1,200 LGBT member organizations from 132 countries that promote equality for lesbian, gay, transgender, and intersex people. 4 ILGA-Europe is their European/Central Asian branch. 5

  • Their Advocacy Director, Katrin Hugendubel, commented:

    "This referendum is essentially asking people to approve discriminating against their neighbours, colleagues, friends and family members. Rainbow families, diverse family groups, loving families living in Romania right now are all threatened by this proposal.

    Today, ILGA-Europe would like to reassure the diversity of families in Romania that we see you, we support you and will continue to stand with you." 6

  • Their Litigation Officer, Arpi Avetisyan, said:

    "Romania has a responsibility to protect all its citizens – straight and LGBTI. The definition of ‘family’ put forward by the supporters of this referendum is frankly inaccurate; it only captures a very limited fraction of what family means to people in 2018. And it is also very out-of-step with reality and with the diversity of families being recognised by international human rights bodies and European courts." 6

Groups who are promoting a "YES" vote on the referendum have described it as a vote for or against the "traditional family." 8

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2018: Court activity concerning same-sex couples:

A Romanian man, Adrian Coman, 46, met Clai Hamilton, 46, an male American in New York City during 2002. They lived together for four years in the U.S. and married in Belgium during 2010. 13 Gay marriage has been recognized there since 2003-JUN. The same-sex couple planned to live in Romania. However, the Romanian Government refused to grant Hamilton a residency permit. He was told that he could only stay in the country for three months. The couple launched a lawsuit in Romanian Courts who referred the case (#C‑673/16) to the European Court of Justice since Romania is a member of the European Commuinity (EC).

During 2018-JUN, the Court ruled in the couple's favor . The Court determined that countries in the European Union must grant same-sex spouses the same residency rights as opposite-sex couples under the European Community's freedom of movement laws. 11 The ruling said, in part:

"In the directive on the exercise of freedom of movement, the term 'spouse', which refers to a person joined to another person by the bonds of marriage, is gender-neutral and may therefore cover the same-sex spouse of an EU citizen." 15

Mr Coman said:

"We can now look in the eyes of any public official ... across the EU with certainty that our relationship is [considered] equally valuable and equally relevant. 15

He also said:

"Romanian citizens cannot be divided into good and gay. We can no longer be treated as inferior citizens without equal rights on the basis of the prejudices that some people have about homosexuality."

In reality, the Romanian Government can withold rights from the LGBT community; the country does not have to recognize same-sex marriages. The court issued a statement saying:

"Although the member states have the freedom whether or not to authorise marriage between persons of the same sex, they may not obstruct the freedom of residence of an EU citizen by refusing to grant his same-sex spouse, a national of a country that is not an EU Member State, a derived right of residence in their territory."

An unidentified European Commission spokesman said in Brussels after the judgment:

"All member states have the freedom to decide whether or not to offer same sex marriage but may not discriminate on the grounds they are in a same sex marriage." 13

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2018-OCT: The national referendum is held:

It was held on the weekend of OCT-06 and 07. It is unusual in Romania to hold a referendum that extends over two days. This might have been done to encourage a high turnout. The rules require a minimum of 30% of registered voters to participate and 25% of registered voters to cast a valid yes or no vote, before the referendum results would be considered valid. The "NO Campaign" adopted the strategy of urging marriage equality voters to boycott the referendum, in the hope that the turnout would be less than 30%

Barry Duke, writing for the Nonreligious section in Patheos.com, discussed the results of the referendum. He titled his report: "Romania’s $40 million anti-gay referendum was a complete flop." 9

Only 20.4% of eligible Romanians turned out to vote! 11 Thus, the results of the vote are non-binding. The NO Campaign's tactic worked.

Dan Barna is a politician who was elected a member of the Romanian Chamber of Deputies in 2016. He is president of the Save Romania Union party, which is the only major political party in the country to urge marriage equality. He called for the government to resign for:

"... wasting 40m Euros of public money on a fantasy."

40 million Euros is equivalent to 46 million U.S. dollars, 35 million British Pounds, and 60 million Canadian dollars!

Vlad Viski of the LGBT rights group MozaiQ commented on the referendum results:

"Romanians rejected being divided and hating each other. It is a victory for Romanian democracy. ... Moreover, Romanians rejected the involvement of the Orthodox Church in the state’s secular affairs.

We believe politicians must now legalize civil partnerships for same sex couples. ..."

"Our campaign said, 'You cannot vote on whom you love'."

What we're witnessing is this sort of alliance between these extremist American groups and local indigenous conservative groups trying to push forward their agenda." 9

Viski blames U.S. groups like Liberty Counsel for influencing the the Romanian referendum. Some Liberty Counsel members visited Romania in 2017 to promote a "YES" vote, along with Kim Davis. She is the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed in 2015-AUG because she refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriages across the entire country with the exception of the territory of American Samoa.

Archdeacon Ionut Mavrichi of the Romanian Orthodox Church said:

"How you define family is a fundamental value of a Christian society. You can see how things evolved in Western Europe, and there is pressure to accept this trend."

Adina Zorzini, a 35-year-old art gallerist, 14 said:

"Imagine how many elderly people or homeless people or sick children in hospitals that you can help with that amount of money."

National Public Radio in the U.S. described the thoughts of Marius Tufis, a retired engineer, He said:

"I don't like man with man and woman with woman. Our religion does not accept this."

He believes that most Romanians agree with him. According to the BBC:

"Romania continues to have one of the lowest rates of acceptance towards LGBTI rights ... with no legal protection for same-sex couples, either in partnerships or marriage, and high rates of 'homophobic and transphobic hate' - especially in rural areas." 12

He expressed a concern that the European Union will eventually require Romania to accept gay marriages. 10

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Steve Weatherbe, "Romania’s top court approves initiative to define marriage as between man and woman," Life Site News, 2016-JUL-21, at: https://www.lifesitenews.com/
  2. Calvin Freiburger, "Romanians to vote in referendum banning same-sex ‘marriage’ on October 7," Life Site News, 2018-SEP-29, at: https://www.lifesitenews.com/
  3. "Romania parliament votes in favor of man/woman marriage only," Associated Press, 2018-SEP-11, at: https://www.apnews.com/
  4. ILGA's international web site is at: https://ilga.org/
  5. ILGA Europe's web site is at: https://www.ilga-europe.org/
  6. "Romania to hold referendum that could violate the rights of rainbow families," ILGA-Europe, 2018-SEP-17, at: https://www.ilga-europe.org/
  7. "Romanian constitutional referendum, 2018," as on 2018-SEP-25, Wikipedia, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/
  8. "Romania: Rights groups submit legal challenge against ‘homophobic’ referendum," Amnesty International, 2018-SEP-14, at: https://www.amnestyusa.org/
  9. Barry Duke, "Romania’s $40 million anti-gay referendum was a complete flop," Patheos-Nonreligious, 2018-OCT-08, at: http://www.patheos.com/
  10. Joanna Kakissis, "Romanian Referendum To Ban Same-Sex Marriage Fails," NPR, 2018-OCT-08, at: https://www.npr.org/
  11. "Romania marriage poll: Referendum to ban gay unions fails," BBC - Europe, 2018-OCT-08, at: https://www.bbc.com/
  12. David Molloy, "Romania marriage poll: One man, one woman definition up for vote," BBC News, 2018-OCT-06, at: https://www.bbc.com/
  13. James Crisp, "Top EU court rules same-sex spouses have same rights in countries that have not legalised gay marriage," The Telegraph (UK), 2018-JUN-05, at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/
  14. A gallerist is a person who owns an art gallery or who exhibits and promotes artists' work.
  15. Andrew Rettman "Case 673/16: An EU (same-sex) love story," euobserver, 2018-JUN-05, at: https://euobserver.com/

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Copyright © 2018 Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Author: B.A. Robinson
Originally posted on: 2018-SEP-30
Latest update: 2018-OCT-09

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