The Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR) ruled on Wednesday that the citizen-initiated proposal to amend Article 48 of the Constitution, so that it would stipulate that family is based on marriage between “a man and a woman” and not between “spouses” as currently stipulated, meets the requirements concerning the exercise of the citizens’ right to legislative initiative.
After the decision was announced, several members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual (LGBT) community came out onto the street to express their dissatisfaction. Apart from the Accept Association, two other associations defending the rights of the LGBT community – MozaiQ and TRANSform – expressed their dissatisfaction with CCR’s decision.
“Today, the rights of LGBT persons are put into doubt. Tomorrow, women’s reproductive rights or the rights of the Roma minority could be put into doubt. As long as the LGBT community is not protected by the Romanian state no other citizen can feel safe. In these moments of maximum tension, solidarity with the LGBT community is absolutely necessary,” the communique reads.
Just like Accept Association, the two other organisations told Parliament that “it has the duty to safeguard society’s general interest, including that of LGBT persons,” and that it has to reject the legislative initiative because it could lead “to a rise in social tensions and hate crimes.”
The representatives of the Accept Association have in turn called on the political class “to act responsibly” and have asked Parliament to clarify the question that will be put at the referendum on amending the Constitution.
“We regret that society’s prejudices have prompted the Court to give up international human rights standards in what concerns family and respect for human dignity. The European Court of Human Rights decisions, which set the norms in terms of fundamental rights, clearly and consistently show that the LGBT persons’ right to intimate, private and family life has to be recognised and respected through a form of protection offered by the member states of the Council of Europe,” Accept Association Vice President Romanita Iordache stated.
The Court has issued a favourable report on the citizen-initiated proposal to amend the Constitution, in the sense that the proposal respects the limits of Constitutional amendments. Nevertheless, CCR judges have not ruled on the essence of the issue – defining marriage as a contract between a man and a woman – or on the timeliness of the amendment.
The decision was taken unanimously and, consequently, the initiative can be debated by Parliament. The initiative needs a qualified majority in order to be adopted by Parliament. In case Parliament approves it, the proposal would then have to be subjected to referendum.
On the other hand, the Coalition for Family is asking Parliament to urgently adopt the constitutional amendment that protects marriage and family and to hold the referendum on the same date of the general elections scheduled this year, taking into account the decision of the Constitutional Court.
According to a communique remitted on Wednesday and quoted by Agerpres, the Committee for the Promotion of the Citizen-initiated Constitutional Amendment, along with the Coalition for Family, welcomes the Constitutional Court’s unanimous decision.
“Given the elimination of any obstacles of a constitutional, legal and procedural nature, the responsibility of the Romanian Parliament cannot be eluded in any way. The initiators of the amendment proposal are asking the Senate and the Lower Chamber to debate and adopt the draft law through an urgent procedure, so that the referendum could be held on the date of the general elections of 2016. We consider the Court’s decision natural and a victory of authentic democracy over ideology. Our initiative is democratic, since laws, including the Constitution, have to be consistent with the values of a majority of citizens,” reads the communique signed by Mihai Gheorghiu, Chairman of the Initiative Committee.
According to the aforementioned source, the constitutional amendment proposal is in line with Romania’s international obligations, especially with the European Convention of Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which protect the heterosexual family.
“Marriage and Family are objective, natural, historically-verified facts from which their legal definition is derived: the right to marry is a common right of the man and the woman who can naturally form a family, for the purpose of giving birth to and rearing children. Thus, Family is the foundation of human society and civilisation. It’s a simple and universal truth, without which the “common good” cannot be conceived,” the Coalition for Family claims.
The Coalition’s proposal for the referendum to take place on the same day of the parliamentary elections has been criticised by several NGOs which argue that it could turn sexual minorities into “a scapegoat for all of the Romanians’ problems,” as the Accept Association pointed out in its turn too. A similar fear was also expressed by the President of the National Antidiscrimination Council (CNCD), who pointed out that it would nevertheless be good for the referendum to be held on a separate date in order for people not to be manipulated.
Amnesty International, ACCEPT, ActiveWatch Association and the Institute for Public Policies are some of the NGOs criticising the Coalition’s initiative.
“We are asking the Constitutional Court to issue a negative report on the initiative to hold a constitutional amendment referendum that concerns the definition of the family. Firstly, we argue that the initiative is illegal in relation to the constitutional text and to international human rights standards that Romania signed,” lawyer Iustina Ionescu, Accept Association board member specialised in human rights, stated on RFI.
“The initiative is trying to redefine the family in Romania’s Constitution from a religious standpoint. Family would represent solely the marriage between a man and a woman. In reality however, in Romania there are many other types of family, and the very strict definition of the family in the Constitution would leave outside legal protection families such as single-parent families, or families formed by non-married heterosexual couples, as well as families formed by same-sex couples that lack the possibility to marry in Romania in line with the Civil Code. And this contradicts the right to private and family life and the right not to be discriminated,” Accept Association’s lawyer explained.