Romanian referendum -- is marriage only between a man and a woman?

Romania is organizing a referendum to ask citizens if they want a family based on marriage between "a man and a woman" or "between spouses." 

Delia Budurca
Delia Budurca NewsMavens, Romania


Romanian referendum -- is
marriage only between a man and a woman?
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Romanian parliament, Pixabay

Why this story matters:

The referendum -- scheduled on October 6 and 7 -- is based on a citizens' initiative led by the Coalition for Families, an organization that brings together nearly 50 NGOs. The initiative -- actively supported by the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church -- has raised the 3 million signatures necessary to propose a referendum to amend the Constitution.

There are several controversies associated with the referendum. Many Romanians claim the 35 million euros spent by the PSD is wasteful because the result is already clear -- Romanians will most likely vote for the traditional family -- and that the money could be better spent on health or education. Yet the Church is urging people to go to the referendum and vote "yes" to defend the traditional family.

"Marriage is only for a man and woman. We are sorry that many have deviated from this fundamental truth and believe that marriage or family can be understood in any different way, "said Archbishop of Tomis, IPS Teodosie. He also stated that a family cannot consist of two persons of the same sex, as that is "a sin".

Political organizations, non-governmental organizations and public figures have also called for a boycott, claiming that human rights cannot be voted on and that the revision of the Constitution has no legal basis. They say that marriage is already defined as a union between a man and a woman in the Civil Code, and that PSD (the ruling party) is wasting money.

The issue has also now turned political, as Romania's ruling party PSD, pressured by corruption allegations in recent months, has co-opted the issue. The pro-family vote has been turned into a pro-PSD act, while the boycott of the referendum is seen as an anti-PSD one.

Members of the Coalition for the Family, who lead the drive for a referendum, say they reject the way PSD has co-opted the issue. They say the referendum is solely about constitutional protection for the definition of marriage.

For the initiative to be adopted, almost 6 million Romanians must vote.

Details from the story:

  • The proposed law revises Article 48, paragraph 1 of the Romanian Constitution, as follows: "The family is founded on the freely agreed marriage between spouses “a husband and a woman”, on their equality and on the right and duty of parents to ensure the raising, education and training children.
  • For the initiative to review the Constitution, the Coalition for the Family has collected 3 million signatures, forcing the Parliament to pass a law amending the Constitution. The law can only be established through a referendum, in which 6 million Romanians have to vote.
  • Marriage is already regulated in Art. 277 of the Civil Code, which prohibits other forms of coexistence equivalent to this (marriages and same-sex partnerships). Human rights organizations see in this initiative a flagrant restriction of LGBT minority rights.
  • However, the Constitutional Court endorsed the proposed amendment on July 20, 2016, noting that it does not interfere with any individual right. The proposal for revision was positively endorsed by the Chamber of Deputies on 27 March 2017, but the organization of the referendum was postponed after September after PNL and USR senators attacked the new form of the RAC referendum law. CCR later rejected the referral. On September 11, 2018, the Senate, in its capacity as decision-maker, adopted the proposal to revise the Constitution by 107 votes in favor, 13 against and seven abstentions.
  • In Timisoara, western Romania, a giant billboard on a block was taken down, at the insistence of the mayor, after generating heated controversy on social media. The sign stated, "Come to the referendum! Vote "yes" for marriage between a man and a woman! Defend the family and children of Romania. If you do not come to vote, two men will adopt your baby."
  • "The right to plead for a referendum and a positive vote should not be extended to ostracizing those with a different orientation, generating potentially generating messages of tension. I will go to the referendum, I will vote 'yes', but I will not say anything offensive to those with other orientations or other opinions," said Timisoara Mayor Nicolae Robu.
  • In Europe, 16 states have accepted marriage between two same-sex persons, and in 14 states the concept of marriage has been protected by specifying that it is a man and a woman.
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