October 7, 2018 at 7:02 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Romania marriage referendum fails because of low voter turnout

A referendum on whether to define marriage as between a man and a woman in Romania’s constitution has failed because of low voter turnout. (Photo public domain)

A referendum on whether to define marriage as between a man and a woman in the Romanian constitution’s definition of family has failed.

The Associated Press and other media outlets cited election officials who said turnout was below the 30 percent that was required to make the referendum valid.

Less than 21 percent of Romanian voters participated in the referendum, which took place over two days. Advocacy groups that campaigned against the proposed amendment had called for a boycott of the referendum.

“Together, through the boycott campaign, we showed that we, as citizens, want a Romania based upon democratic values, a country where respect, equality and common-sense guides society,” said the Accept Association, a Romanian LGBTI advocacy group, on Sunday in a statement. “Today we have shown that we can not be fooled by a political agenda that urges us to hate and polarize society, we have shown that most of us believe that human rights are not to be voted at a referendum.”

Mihnea Florea, program coordinator of MozaiQ, another Romanian LGBTI advocacy group, agreed.

“This nationwide debate over marriage equality has changed hearts and minds in a land that is proud of its Christian traditions,” Florea told the Washington Blade on Sunday. “Our campaign brought the LGBTQ community together and made it stronger. With the help of allies across Romania, we’ve spread a strong message of equality and solidarity.”

“I am proud to see fellow Romanians accepting people of different identities, choosing love over hate and showing to the world that Christianity is first and foremost about love and respect,” added Florea.

ILGA-Europe Advocacy Director Katrin Hugendubel in a statement said “the campaign of hate against the LGBTI community in Romania failed.”

The Coalition for Family, a group of 23 organizations that oppose marriage rights for same-sex couples, in 2015 launched a campaign in support of amending Romania’s constitution.

The campaign collected 3 million signatures. Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk who went to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, is among those who traveled to Romania over the last year to campaign for the proposed amendment.

The Associated Press on Sunday reported the Coalition for Family conceded defeat before election officials announced official turnout figures.

“Next time, we’ll succeed,” said spokesman Mihai Gheorghiu, according to the Associated Press. “Let’s be happy for this day. The Christian vote exists.”

Romania joined the European Union in 2007.

The country in southeastern Europe that borders Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Ukraine and Moldova allows same-sex or heterosexual couples to enter into civil partnerships. Romanian law, however, does not allow gays and lesbians to legally marry.

“The campaign of hate against the LGBTI community in Romania failed,” said Hugendubel in their statement. “But the referendum once again showed how vulnerable the LGBTI community is, in the absence of proper legal recognition of same-sex partnerships and families. It is time that Romania finally ensured that same-sex couples are legally recognized.” 

Rowan County (Ky.) County Clerk Kim Davis, left, traveled to Romania in 2017 to campaign in support of a referendum on whether to define marriage as between a man and a woman in the country’s constitution. (Photo courtesy of the Liberty Counsel)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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