Romania threatened with legal action over ‘shameful’ LGBTQ+ ‘propaganda’ bill

Participants take part in the LGBTQ Pride Parade downtown Bucharest

A cross-party group of MEPs have called on Romania to drop a proposed law comparable to Russia’s so-called “gay propaganda” ban.

Romania is considering a bill that would ban the use of materials in schools that “promote” being LGBTQ+. It has already passed through the country’s Senate despite warnings from human rights groups that it would “demonise and marginalise the LGBT community” and “fuel Russian propaganda and Moscow disinformation campaigns”.

On Thursday (16 June), 44 members of the European Parliament’s LGBTI Intergroup signed a letter to Romanian officials slamming the “shameful” bill and  urging the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house, to kill it.

“We view this bill as a particularly worrying development, given its resemblance to the Hungarian bill… and to the Russian ‘anti-LGBTQ’ propaganda law,” the letter stated.

The bill isn’t even compliant with Romania’s constitution, the signatories argued, stating that it goes against articles that enshrine civilians the right to equality and to access information without restriction.

They added: “It is not compliant with European human rights standards, does not seek to further extend protection but rather to roll back on already secured rights, and further seeks to ostracise LGBTIQ people by seeking to relegate them to the shadows.

“No information on what it means to be LGBTIQ means further invisibility; no visibility means no awareness; no awareness means no public policies to ensure protection; and this, in turn, means further hatred and violence.”

MEPs, writing to Chamber of Deputies president Marcel Ciolacu as well as party leaders and senior politicians, warned Romania should expect legal action from the European Commission, just as Hungary did for its own anti-LGBTQ+ “propaganda” law.

MEPs said opening infringement procedures would be to “protect the EU’s legal order and the respect for fundamental rights”.

The bill was introduced by the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania and the nationalist Alliance for Uniting Romanians, purportedly to prevent “child abuse”.

But, as MEPs stressed, the bill does little to achieve that. Instead, it gives the government sprawling powers to decide what can be shown to minors, and bans trans people from legally changing their gender until they are 18.

Any content the government finds to “deviate from sex at birth [or promotes] the popularisation of sex changes or homosexuality” would be prohibited under the measure.

Activists were quick to compare the legislation to similar laws in Hungary and Russia, both of which have banned the “promotion” of LGBTQ+ lives to minors.

Romanian bill could fuel anti-LGBTQ+ hate

MEPs warned that the bill would stoke even further hostility and violence against LGBTQ+ Romanians, pointing to some bracing statistics.

One in two queer Romanians are almost never open about their identities, according to a 2020 report by the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency.

And according to the World Values Survey conducted between 2017 and 2020, three-quarters of Romanians believe that being gay is “not justifiable”.

The Chamber of Deputies’ Human Rights, Religious Issues and National Minorities’ Issues Committee approved the bill last week. Just three parliamentarians – the Social Democratic Party’s Maya Teodoroiu and Cătălin Teniță and Oana Murariu of the Save Romania Union – voted against it.

The bill, if passed, would amend Law no. 272/2004, which outlines the rights of minors.