Monday 22 October 2018

Romanian vote on changing definition of marriage void due to low turnout

Election officials said after polls closed that only 20.41% of eligible voters participated.

A man sits draped in a rainbow flag in a nightclub in Bucharest (Andreea Alexandru/AP)
A man sits draped in a rainbow flag in a nightclub in Bucharest (Andreea Alexandru/AP)

By Associated Press Reporters

A referendum aimed at putting same-sex marriage further out of reach in Romania was invalidated after too few voters cast ballots, election officials said.

The weekend vote on a constitutional amendment that would have changed the definition of family to make marriage a union between a man and a woman instead of between “spouses” required voter turnout of at least 30% for the result to stand.

Election officials said after polls closed that only 20.41% of eligible voters participated. The turnout threshold never was close to being reached all day, a trend which gay rights group Accept said showed citizens “want a Romania based upon democratic values”.

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The vote has taken place over two days (AP)

“We have shown that we cannot be fooled by a political agenda that urges us to hate and polarise society,” the group said.

Marriage statutes already prohibit same-sex marriage in Romania. The conservative Coalition for Family spearheaded the referendum with a signature petition, arguing that any ambiguity in the constitution needed to be eliminated.

Earlier on Sunday, the Coalition for Family blamed what it called “a massive disinformation campaign” by the media, politicians and local governments for the weak voter participation.

It alleged “a general boycott by all political parties” that was “primarily directed against the Christians of Romania”.

The influential Romanian Orthodox Church backed the amendment. Concerned about the low turnout, Patriarch Daniel urged Romanians to “vote before it’s too late”.

“We call on you to vote, to have this honour, to demonstrate this freedom and right,” he said.

Opponents say the new constitutional language could have made LGBT people feel more like second-class citizens and could discriminate against non-traditional families. They also said the amendment was unnecessary since Romanian civil law already limits marriages to a man and a woman.

In the village of Adunati-Copaceni, south of Bucharest, only 62 people had voted by mid-morning out of a total electorate of 1,147.

Priests leading services at St Mary’s Church encouraged the congregation to vote. Retired farmer Ana Buturgianu, 69, said she would heed the advice, as did Andrei Aurelian, a 53-year-old cashier.

“The vote is for us and for our children. It’s normal to have a man and a woman, not two men together,” Mr Aurelian said.

But Bucharest resident Marin Soare, 50, who was cycling through the village on Sunday, boycotted the referendum, calling it “a waste of money”.

“We already have traditional families in Romania and have done so for 2,000 years,” he said. “And there’s always been same-sex relationships.”

Press Association

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