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News 08 Jan 16

Romanian Priests Push for Gay Marriage Ban

Romanian Orthodox clergy are drumming up support for a change to the constitution defining marriage as an union between a man and a woman alone.

Marian Chiriac
Bucharest

A model family as seen by the Orthodox Church | Photo: Basilica.ro

The days following Christmas have been a good opportunity for Orthodox priests accross Romania to encourage parishioners to back a campaign for a change to the constitution outlawing same-sex marriage.  

Dozens of people on Wednesday attending the Epiphany Day service at the cathedral in Timisoara, in western Romania, queued to sign the initiative, after their Bishop, or Metropolitan, encouraged them to do so during the Christmas mass.

Priests in the Iasi region in the east of the country, while blessing people’s houses for the Epiphany Day – a common tradition in Romania – used the occasion to ask them to back amendments to the fundamental law, according to media reports.

Clergy want to gather at least 500,000 signatures in order to organise a referendum proposing that the constitution describe marriage as a consensual relationship between a man and a woman alone. Currently, the constitutional article use only the words “between spouses” when referring to the marriage partners.

While priests are busy campaining for the change, senior representatives of the Orthodox Church have not yet officially expressed support for the initiative.

However, Church leader Patriarch Daniel, in a message released on Tuesday, said that Orthodox believers “must support the Church’s effort to protect the natural, traditional and universal family, and resist some new family models that consider the natural woman-man union only one model among others”.

More than 85 per cent of Romania’s population of 19.5 million belong to the Orthodox Church, which enjoys high levels of trust in the public.

Analysts say the issue is sensitive and will likely be debated more in the following months. “Romania is not yet ready to encourage marriage between same-sex persons and in my opinion this topic came up in public too early,” sociologist Tudor Pitulac said.

"But the Church is wrong if it tries to force a change to the constitution, as the topic has to be debated more,” he added.

None of Romania's major political parties, either in government or in opposition, supports same-sex marriage, or registered partnerships, or has proposed any law on the subject. 

In 2013, the politician and civic rights activist Remus Cernea initiate a draft law on civil union between both same-sex and opposite-sex couples, but his initiative was rejected.

Church leaders in Romania may draw encouragement from what happened in Croatia where a Catholic Church-backed referendum on changing the constitution in order to limit marriage to opposite-sex couples took place on 1 December 2013. Some 65 per cent of Croatian voters duly voted in favour of the constitutional change.

Currently, Croatia recognizes life partnerships for same-sex couples through the Life Partnership Act, making same-sex couples equal to married couples in everything except adoption.

Romania does not recognise same-sex unions, either in the form of same-sex marriage or civil unions.

Thirteen European countries have legally recognized and perform same-sex marriages, while in another 20 the law recognizes some form of civil union.

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