Romania to hold referendum which could rule out same-sex marriage

Romania’s ruling party leader has confirmed that the country intends to hold a referendum which would rule out same-sex marriage before the end of the year.

Social Democrats leader Liviu Dragnea is pushing forward with the referendum after three million people signed a petition which called for the constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman.

Bucharest Pride march

Bucharest Pride May 2017 (Photo by DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images)

The petition was led by the Coalition for the Family, a group of 30 non-governmental organisations which back anti-LGBT policies to “promote the traditional family”.

Currently, the constitutional definition of marriage is between “spouses”.

Related: Romania goes to court over whether to recognise gay couple’s marriage

The petition allowed the top court to open its doors to a referendum because a change in the constitution can only be proposed by either the president, the government, a quarter of lawmakers in parliament or a petition with at least 500,000 signatures from Romanian citizens.

To push the constitutional change through it must be first approved by Parliament before heading to a nationwide referendum.

Very few politicians support same-sex marriage in Romania, meaning that the change will likely be proposed in a referendum soon.

A number of activist groups in Romania are trying to shoot the referendum down.

In June, they petitioned parliament to reject the change out of fear that it would lead the country to be more populist and authoritarian.

These rights groups have argued by changing the current constitutional definition it not only targets same-sex couples but also other “non-traditional” families of single parents and couples who are not married.

Orthodox church in Romania

Related: Bucharest Pride parade protests parliamentary proposal to prohibit same-sex partnerships

Dragnea said that the country, which is primarily Orthodox, and the government are “committed” to the change.

“It is known that we are committed in this direction,” he said. “Our intention is to end up organising the referendum to change the constitution on the family issue this autumn.

Surprisingly, Romania’s president is an open supporter of marriage equality.

President Klaus Iohannis is ethnically Germany and said that as an ethnic and religious minority he supports tolerance and openness towards other minorities.