Leading gay-rights groups in Romania have hailed the invalidation of a referendum that would have banned same-sex marriage, saying it indicated that citizens “want a Romania based upon democratic values."
"We have shown that we cannot be fooled by a political agenda that urges us to hate and polarize society," the Accept group said on October 7.
Romanians voted on October 6-7 in a referendum asking to amend the constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Liviu Dragnea, leader of the ruling Social Democrat Party (PSD), and influential religious groups had urged Romanians to support the referendum.
However, the country's election commission said that just 20.4 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots by the time polls closed on October 7, the second day of voting. That was well below the 30 percent threshold required by law.
The proposed amendment would have changed the constitutional definition of marriage from a union of "spouses" to one exclusively of a man and a woman to prevent any attempt to legalize same-sex marriage through legislation in the future.
Vlad Viski of the LGBT rights group MozaiQ also hailed the referendum’s failure, saying that "Romanians rejected being divided and hating each other."
“It is a victory for Romanian democracy and, moreover, Romanians rejected the involvement of the Orthodox Church in the state’s secular affairs."
A conservative group initiated the two-day referendum, and the influential Romanian Orthodox Church and all but one parliamentary party backed the change.
The group conceded defeat before the overall turnout result was announced.
"Next time, we'll succeed," Coalition for Family spokesman Mihai Gheorghiu said, appearing to indicate the group will try again for a new referendum. "Let's be happy for this day. The Christian vote exists."
The group earlier issued a statement blaming the media, politicians, and local governments for the low turnout, accusing them of "a massive disinformation campaign."
It claimed that a boycott called by opponents was “primarily directed against the Christians of Romania."
The measure had passed the country’s two chambers of parliament already, making the referendum vote the final stage in the amendment process.
Opponents said the new constitutional language was an attempt to make LGBT people feel more like second-class citizens and warned that approval would push the country onto a populist, authoritarian track.
Conservative Romania is one of the few members of the European Union to ban marriage or civil partnerships for same-sex couples. Romania decriminalized homosexuality in 2001, but discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) minority is widespread.
The government's decision to press ahead with the referendum alarmed Brussels, with the EU Commission's deputy chief, Frans Timmermans, reminding Bucharest of its human rights commitments.
The two-day referendum cost $40 million, according to officials.