Three million people have signed a petition to ban same-sex marriage in Romania, and in doing so has started a war on gay rights between religious conservatives and young liberals.
Two primetime TV debates among politicians and cultural leaders have taken place already this week, with two more scheduled for tomorrow (3 June) over the question of changing the constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
Currently the constitution uses gender neutral language to describe marriage, defining it as a union of two people. This has conservatives nervous, seeing the rise of LGBTI rights across the world, and so it has launched a campaign to make sure same-sex marriage doesn’t happen in the central European country by any means possible.
The Coalition for Family, a group of religion NGO groups headed by the powerful Orthodox Church, needed 500,000 signatures to submit to the Romanian government. They raised over 3 million.
They did this by using tens of thousands of volunteers, sign-up sheets in churches, knocking on doors and investing in adverts in public squares and on TV.
While they will need approval from the Constitutional Court, an outright majority vote in Parliament and a national referendum, human rights advocates are concerned they will be able to ensure same-sex marriage is expressly banned by law.
Remus Cernea, an independent MP with green progressive policies, told Gay Star News these days represent a ‘crucial moment’ for LGBT rights in Romania.
He said he hopes the Constitutional Court will agree that ‘no revision shall be made if it results in the suppression of the citizens’ fundamental rights and freedoms’, as stated in Romanian law.
However, Cernea said politicians may still push it through.
‘This initiative is an example of the tyranny of the majority,’ he told GSN. ‘Those 3 million people who signed do not accept the equality of rights and want to impose their homophobic views on the whole of society.’
He added: ‘Despite the large number who promote homophobia, there are more and more people who are speaking and writing in favor of LGBTI rights.
‘But we still have to face the huge wave of the conservative forces supported by some of the churches in Romania.
‘This will be a long and difficult battle.’
Vlad Viski, the president of MozaiQ, a LGBTI rights organization in Romania, told GSN the Coalition for Family will not stop if they succeed in banning same-sex marriage. They intend to propose a ban on abortions, pornography, policies to discourage divorce, and ban all sexual education in schools.
‘The LGBTI community in Romania seems to have very little options in the battle with the Goliath that is the Orthodox Church. Local groups are poorly funded, very few people are out and ready to represent the cause, and there is still fear amongst activists to openly ask for the legalization of gay marriage,’ he said.
‘These days and in the upcoming months, Romania is faced with a major decision concerning not only LGBTI rights, but rather the path it wants to take when it comes to democracy, European values, separation between Church and state, and protection of minorities.
It can either choose to go back to a past where abortion and homosexuality were illegal, or it can go forward and stand up for its LGBTI citizens, for equality and justice for all, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, bodily ability or socio-economic status.’