Date: 8 October 2018

Romania after the referendum on the same-sex marriage

The referendum was to introduce a change in the Constitution which would precisely define a family as a “union between a man and a woman”. Its sponsors were afraid that the current definition could enable the legalisation of the same-sex marriage. However, the result of the referendum is invalid due to the low turnout.


The referendum was initiated by the conservative association Coaliția pentru Familie. “Familia se întemeiază pe căsătoria liber consimțită între soți” – this sentence, which is included in the Constitution, says that “a family is based on the voluntary union between spouses” and is supposed to enable the introduction of same-sex marriage. Coaliția pentru Familie has struggled for the change of the regulation for several years. Three million citizens signed the project concerning the referendum on this matter. Finally, both chambers of the parliament decided that the referendum would be held. During the weekend on 6-7 October, people were voting for and against the redefinition of a family as a union of a man and a woman.

The referendum started on Saturday at 7 a.m. and ended at 9 p.m. on Sunday. In order to make the referendum valid, at least 30% of voters had to turn out. The Romanian Orthodox Church engaged in the action by encouraging people to vote. Some politicians supported the action as well. Sometimes, mayors of the cities on their own prompted people to participate in voting. On the other hand, a major part of left-wing parties and LGBT organisations called for a boycott. A great part of the political scene, with the main opposition National Liberal Party (PNL) ahead, remained neutral.

After the first day of the referendum, the turnout reached merely 5.72%. People were expected to vote after the masses in the morning, but until 1 p.m. local time, only 11.67% of the electorate turned out. Eventually, a little more than 20% of voters participated in the referendum. And despite the fact that over 90% of votes were for the change in the Constitution, the referendum was invalid. Part of representatives of the opposition and social activists were afraid that the referendum might have been faked. The voting was being supervised by several thousand volunteers who guarded the rectitude of the process. „Thousands who spent a weekend watching ballot boxes like hawks and sanctioning small abuses – a major fraud was not possible because of civic vigilance too. This is truly something to be proud of. Citizens, once more, wiser collectively than their political leaders” – Claudia Ciobanu, a journalist and social activist living in Warsaw said.

Just after the announcement of the first data about the turnout, many critical voices concerning the referendum, which cost almost 164 million lei (about 35 million euro), appeared. The representatives of the left-wing Save Romania Union (Uniunea Salvați România; USR), among others, took up an official stance. “A low turnout which led to the invalidation of the referendum is a vote of no confidence for Liviu Dragnea and Calin Popescu Tariceanu (editorial note: leaders of parties creating a ruling coalition) who thought they could manipulate the Romanians through fear and lies. USR is convinced that the Romanians did not want their vote to be used by PSD and ALDE as an argument for the attacks against justice and for the removal of Romania from the European Union.” – USR announces.

Liviu Dragnea who was accused of supporting the referendum by the left wing, was accused of its failure by Coaliția pentru Familie. In a special announcement, members of the association write even about the “unprecedented misinformation campaign since the 1989 Revolution”: “This is proved by the superficial and unprofessional manner in which the Referendum was organized, so that even elementary data on the subject of the referendum were not communicated to the Romanian public.” – we read in the Coaliția pentru Familie’s announcement.
For now, there is no official information on whether the Coaliția pentru Familie will continue its struggle for the change in the Constitution in the future.

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