Romanians began voting on whether to change the constitution to strictly ban same-sex marriage in a two-day referendum in the conservative country.
The proposed amendment would change 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.
A conservative group initiated the referendum, which is being held on October 6-7, and the influential Romanian Orthodox Church and all but one parliamentary party is backing the change.
Romania is one of the only 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) community is widespread.
"Many fear what has happened in other countries," the leader of the ruling Social Democrat Party (PSD), Liviu Dragnea, told television station Romania TV.
Opponents say the new constitutional language is 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.
The government's decision to press ahead with the referendum has alarmed Brussels, with the EU Commission's deputy chief, Frans Timmermans, reminding Bucharest of its human rights commitments.
"I don't want family values to be transformed into arguments that encourage the darkest demons and hatred against sexual minorities," he said.
The referendum requires a 30 percent turnout of registered voters to be valid.
A poll released on October 5 by CURS estimated a turnout of 34 percent with 90 percent in favor of the change.
A group called the Coalition for the Family collected 3 million signatures to enable the amendment.
The lower house of parliament voted in favor last year and the senate followed in September, making the referendum the last needed stage.