After the referendum held this past weekend failed to reach the needed turnout threshold to be validated, the initiators of the initiative to change the definition of the family in the Constitution vowed to continue fighting for the cause. At the same time, the NGOs supporting the rights of the LGBTQ community welcomed the results as proof of the local voters’ attachment to European values.
Only 20.4% of the Romanians voted in the referendum, according to official statistics from the Central Electoral Bureau (BEC). Only 3.73 million people went to vote out of a total of 18.28 million registered on the electoral lists. A total of 91% of those who voted in the referendum answered “yes,” meaning they were in favor of changing the Constitution, while 6.42% voted “no.” The remaining votes were not validated.
The Coalition for Family (CpF), the initiator of the initiative to change the definition of family in the Constitution, said this past weekend’s vote “will stay in the history of this nation” and that the battle will continue.
The CpF, a group of NGOs that support the traditional family, wanted to change an article in the Constitution that states that “family is based on the marriage between spouses” to “family is based on the marriage between a man and a woman”. The CPF was largely supported by the Romanian Orthodox Church.
Mihai Gheorghiu, the leader of the CpF, spoke of a generalized boycott from the political scene and the media, calling it “an immense anti-referendum propaganda machine, pro boycott, manipulating and misinforming the people.”
He argued that all “political, constitutional and legislative factors in this country” need to take into account the vote of those who went to cast their ballot. “It is no longer possible to legislate against such a voice,” he said. The CpF leader also called the vote “overwhelming, even if we did not meet our target of six million.”
“Next time we will succeed, to defend the natural; defending what we have received and what we want to leave behind is important to millions and millions of Romanians,” Gheorghiu said.
The Romanian Orthodox Church (BOR), a supporter of the initiative to change the definition of the family in the Constitution, said the results of the referendum show “the degree of secularization of the Romanian society.” It also made an appeal to “spiritual unity” and to a continued defense of the family, and thanked the Romanians who went to cast their vote.
The attitude of the Romanians, who either attended or not the vote, “needs to be respected and analyzed, and the democracy based on civic freedom needs to be cultivated more intensely through accurate and permanent information concerning the topic of public debate,” the BOR said.
The Catholic Church in Romania also reacted after the referendum by “strongly restating that the free willed marriage between a man and a woman sits at the basis of the family,” a message of the Catholic bishops in Romania said.
Two NGOs working to support the rights of the LGBT community welcomed the results of the referendum.
The NGO Accept said the results of the referendum showed that Romanians “cannot be fooled by a political agenda that entices to hatred and discord” and that most people believe that “human rights cannot be voted in a referendum.”
The low turnout proves “that Romanians are actually very concerned with the problems of their families,” Accept explained. “But they are concerned with the actual protection of the family, tried by the social and economic circumstances in our country, and not by its protection through the useless change of an article in the Constitution. Romanians cannot be fooled by hatred, they need the substantial protection of their families.”
Similarly, the MozaiQ Association said the results of the referendum showed that “Romanians rejected hatred and discord in society and did not legitimize with their presence a political act meant to stigmatize and discriminate against the LGBT community.”
The association called the results “a victory of the whole society and of the civil society” and proof of Romanians’ “attachment to European and democratic values.” “Conservative forces in Romania receive today a definite NO from the citizens, which gives us hope that the future Romania is one of diversity, of respect for all minorities and of equal opportunities for all,” it said.
Meanwhile, in a Facebook post, Asztalos Csaba, the president of the National Council to Combat Discrimination (CNCD), urged people to look at the results of the referendum “with humility and respect for the human dignity of every citizen, regardless of the opinion they expressed.” “It’s time to put an end to the discourse of hatred and manipulation,” he said, while pointing to the fact that nothing changes legally as the Constitution does not currently allow same sex marriages.