31 Dec 10

Macedonia Faiths Unite Against Gay Marriage

Leaders of five main religious communities demand constitutional changes to rule out same-sex marriage and gay adoption.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

The heads of the five dominant religions in Macedonia want the constitution changed to define marriage strictly as a union of one man and one woman and to prevent same-sex couples and single parents from adopting children.

The heads of the five faiths unanimously supported the proposed changes to the constitution at a meeting this week in Skopje.

Behind the proposition stand the heads of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, the Islamic Religious Community, the Catholic Church, the Methodist Church and the Jewish Community.

"No one should be afraid of traditional and correct views regarding marriage," the head of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Stefan, said.

Koco Andonov, an activist from the Macedonian Helsinki Committee, said he opposed the changes as an assault on the constitutional principles concerning equality and ther secular character of the state.

“They are imposing their own beliefs and way of life onto others," Andonov told Balkan Insight, referring to the clerics. “The constitution guarantees freedom for all and should nurture differences. No one’s right should jeopardize the rights of others”.

At the moment, Macedonia’s constriction does not address the issue of same-sex marriages. Article 40, which the clergy want changed, merely says that “legal relations in marriage, the family and non-marriage communities are regulated by law”.

However, Macedonian law does not in fact allow same sex-marriages and does not allow same-sex couples to adopt children, either.

For the last three years, European Commission annual reports have taken Macedonia to task for failing to protect the rights of gays and lesbians.

In 2010, the EU stepped up criticism after the centre-right VMRO DPMNE-led government failed to include different sexual orientation as a cause of discrimination in its new anti-discrimination law.

Reacting to the cleric's proposed changes, the opposition Social Democrats said they suspected the campaign was being conducted in coordination with Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and his VMRO DPMNE party, which has an absolute majority in parliament.

Two-thirds of Macedonian legislators must vote in favour of a proposed change to the constitution for it to be adopted.

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