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Thousands Join Gay-Pride Parade In Romanian Capital

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Gay-pride marchers in Bucharest

BUCHAREST -- Thousands of people joined a gay-pride parade in Romania’s capital, Bucharest, on June 22, months after a referendum seeking to ban same-sex marriage failed.

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) community is widespread.

On June 22, nearly 10,000 people braved rain to march the length of Calea Victoriei, a major avenue in central Bucharest, dancing and waving rainbow flags.

Organizers said the march was bigger than the pride parade in 2018.

"We ask for our rights," Patrick Braila, an LGBT activist, told RFE/RL. "Above all, we want to show our joy on the streets."

Smaller pride marches were also held in other cities.

Meanwhile, several hundred people gathered in Victory Square in Bucharest and marched to the Romanian Patriarchate to protest against the LGBT community and in favor of what they called traditional family values in Romania.

"God created us men and women. And thus we have to stay -- that's normal," a marcher told RFE/RL.

Romanians voted in October 2018 in the 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, well below the 30 percent threshold required by law.

Gay rights groups in Romania hailed the invalidation of the referendum.

The government's decision to hold the referendum alarmed Brussels, with the EU Commission's deputy chief, Frans Timmermans, reminding Bucharest of its human rights commitments.

The 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.

With reporting by Reuters
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    RFE/RL's Romanian Service

    After a decade-long closure, RFE/RL's Romanian Service has been relaunched on digital platforms to help address declining media independence in Romania and the spread of disinformation.

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