Romanian rights groups urge parliament to halt same-sex marriage referendum

Romania faces a turning point: How will an eastern European state, traditionally influenced by the Catholic Orthodox Church, rule on the issue of gay rights?

Andreea Alexandru/AP
People hold a rainbow flag during a Gay Pride Parade in Bucharest, Romania, on Saturday, May 20, 2017. Recent months have brought great debate surrounding the state's positions on civil liberties and gay rights.

Dozens of Romanian rights groups jointly asked parliament on Wednesday to reject a proposed referendum to restrict the constitutional definition of family which would effectively rule out the possibility of legalizing same-sex marriage.

Their grouping, Respect, says an initiative by the Coalition for the Family – also a civil society group – will push the EU state onto a populist, authoritarian track leading to an erosion of democratic rights and liberties.

The Coalition also supports canceling subsidies for contraception and elective abortion, forcing parents of minors to have counseling if they want to divorce, and lowering some taxes for married couples.

"Unfortunately, two democratic instruments, the (civil society) legal initiative and the referendum, have been perverted to serve the agenda of pressure groups," Respect said in a statement.

"Romania is at a turning point and risks joining an authoritarian path unless we act to respect all citizens' fundamental rights."

The plan for a referendum came about after the Coalition collected 3 million signatures last year in favor of changing the constitutional definition of marriage as a union strictly between a man and a woman from the existing "spouses."

Under Romanian law, the constitution can be changed after a proposal by the president, the government, a quarter of all lawmakers, or at least 500,000 citizens. Parliament must approve any revision, which must then pass a nationwide referendum.

The Coalition's proposal has already cleared the senate with an overwhelming majority.

Few politicians openly support same-sex marriage or even civil partnerships in the socially conservative eastern European nation of 20 million, where the Orthodox Church holds considerable sway.

"Romania's parliament is nearing a decision without having organized real debate, without an in-depth analysis, not taking into account European norms and values or the real needs of the Romanian society," Respect said.

"We appeal to political decision makers and responsible institutions to protect democracy."

The Coalition has accused media of discriminatory coverage, saying its own rhetoric was tolerant and geared to preserving marriage between men and women as a universal role model.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Romanian rights groups urge parliament to halt same-sex marriage referendum
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2017/0607/Romanian-rights-groups-urge-parliament-to-halt-same-sex-marriage-referendum
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe