This European Country Is Voting to Block Gay Marriage—Probably Forever

In October, Romania will hold a referendum to change its constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman only.
Photo by Jennifer Brister via Stocksy

Romania is holding a referendum that, if passed, will amend their constitution to permanently exclude gay marriage.

The referendum, which will be held on October 6 and October 7, will amend Romania’s definition of marriage to specifically refer to heterosexual partnerships. (At present, the constitution does not make reference to gender, but specifies only that marriage is between two "spouses.") If the amendment to article 48 of the Romanian constitution is approved, marriage will be defined as a union between a man and woman alone.


The referendum is the result of lobbying from a group called Coaliția pentru Familie [Coalition for the Family]. It describes itself as a pro-family values organization and is openly anti-abortion. In 2016, they delivered a petition to the Romanian parliament with three million signatures calling for the constitutional change.

Under Romanian law, the constitution can be changed if 500,000 citizens submit a petition calling for the change, and if parliament approves the revision. As both houses of Romania’s parliament have approved the revision, the matter will now go to the public referendum. If the vote is passed, same-sex marriage—which is currently illegal in Romania—will likely remain illegal for the indefinite future.

Romania is already a tough place for LGBTQ people. Conversion therapy is legal and same-sex couples aren’t allowed to adopt in the mostly-Orthodox Christian country. According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (ILGA), Romania ranks 35th in Europe when it comes to LGBTI rights. Romania is one of only six European Union member states that does not legally recognize same-sex couples.

In a rare win for LGBTQ rights in the country, Romania’s constitutional court ruled in July that it must give equal residency rights to the same-sex spouses of EU citizens. The ruling came, Reuters reports, after the European Court of Justice ruled that countries that have not legalized same-sex marriage should still offer partners the same rights of residency that straight couples would receive.

LGBTQ rights groups have condemned the forthcoming referendum. Speaking to Broadly, the ILGA condemned the upcoming vote. “This referendum is essentially asking people to approve discriminating against their neighbours, colleagues, friends and family members. Rainbow families, diverse family groups, loving families living in Romania right now are all threatened by this proposal," said the ILGA-Europe’s Advocacy Director, Katrin Hugendubel.

"Today, ILGA-Europe would like to reassure the diversity of families in Romania that we see you, we support you and will continue to stand with you.”