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Armenian Parliament Refuses To Hear Bill Banning Same-Sex Marriage

Anti-LGBT activists demonstrating outside the parliament building in Yerevan in April.

YEREVAN -- Armenia's parliament has rejected consideration of a bill seeking to expressly outlaw same-sex marriages in the Caucasus nation.

A majority of lawmakers on November 12 dismissed consideration of a draft law proposed by the opposition Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), saying it was redundant given that the country's constitution already defines marriage as a union between "a woman and a man."

The bill's co-author, lawmaker Gevork Petrosian, who in the past has expressed anti-LGBT sentiments, demanded that lawmakers "simply put into the Family Code a provision expressly banning same-sex and transgender marriages."

Lawmakers also rejected a proposal by Petrosian to add a provision in the Family Code banning adoption by homosexuals.

The lawmaker described his proposal as a matter of national security and raised a rhetorical question: "Would those voting against this initiative want to see this happen in their families?"

This remark angered parliament speaker Ararat Mirzoian, who asked Petrosian not to "personalize" the issue.

"You are going beyond all limits," Mirzoian said.

Members of the ruling My Step alliance said that Armenia's current legislation regulates all the issues raised by the opposition lawmaker and that there is no need for any additional statements.

"Don't try to be more Catholic than the pope," My Step's Alen Simonian said, suggesting the BHK was using the issue to "create a scandal."

The gay-marriage debate in the Armenian parliament comes amid concerns expressed by conservative groups in Armenia about a possible ratification of a Council of Europe convention that they claim will pave the way for same-sex marriages.

The treaty signed in 2011 and known as the Istanbul Convention commits council member states to combat violence against women.

While saying they support the protection of women, opponents object to the Istanbul Convention's definition of gender as "social roles, behaviors, activities, and characteristics that a particular society considers appropriate for women and men."

They claim this paves the way for introducing transsexual or transgender as separate categories and legalizing gay marriages.

Top clergymen of the Armenian Apostolic Church have also spoken against the ratification of the convention.

Armenian government officials have sought to allay the concerns about the convention by arguing that the convention does not legalize same-sex marriages.

These concerns appear to have forced the authorities in Yerevan to delay ratification until at least next year.

The United Nations, European Union, and local rights groups earlier this year expressed concerns about "hate speech" directed toward Armenia's LGBT community following reports of death threats against a transgender woman who spoke in the country's parliament.