Romanian marriage referendum fails due to low turnout

Bucharest, October 9, 2018

An Orthodox nun casting her ballot in Giurgiu, southern Romania. Photo: Octav Ganea/Inquam Photos An Orthodox nun casting her ballot in Giurgiu, southern Romania. Photo: Octav Ganea/Inquam Photos

Romanians came out to vote over the weekend in a referendum to change the constitution to officially define marriage as between one man and one woman.

However, not enough Romanians came out. The referendum needed 30% of the population to show up to be valid, but although the vote was extended to two days, only about 20% of registered voters actually cast ballots.

At present, marriage is constitutionally defined as “between spouses.” Same-sex marriage is already banned in the Romanian civil code, but many Romanians worry about the influence of the European Union.

“How you define family is a fundamental value of a Christian society,” said Archdeacon Ionut Mavrichi, as quoted by NPR. “You can see how things evolved in Western Europe, and there is pressure to accept this trend.”

Retired engineer Marius Tufis commented, “I don't like man with man and woman with woman,” frowning. “Our religion does not accept this.”

However, his daughter who lives outside of Romania seems to have forgotten: “My daughter lives in the Netherlands, and she’s gotten strange ideas in her head,” he said. “We fight every day over same-sex marriage.”

The Coalition for Family managed to gather 3.1 million signatures in favor of the referendum back in 2016. In May of 2017, the Romanian Chamber of Deputies voted to amend the constitution, with 232 out of 270 in favor. Then, last month, the Senate voted 107-13 to allow the referendum.

It had the backing of the influential Romanian Orthodox Church, which, despite the low turnout, remains optimistic. An official Church press release reads:

In the context of the referendum, the Romanian Orthodox Church fulfilled its civic and moral mission in the public space, where the Church affirmed and defended the identity and value of family as human institution created and blessed by God.

In this regard, we thank the approximately four million Romanian citizens who responded positively by their participating in the ballot.

The attitude assumed by Romanians to participate or not in casting their ballot must be respected and analysed, while democracy based on civic freedom must be cultivated more intensely through correct and permanent information on the publicly debated issue.

Although the recent referendum failed to be valid, it offered us the opportunity to get to know the secularization degree of Romanian society today, as well as the main positions in society regarding the affirmation and the defense of moral values based on the faith in God and the bimillenary history of the Romanian people.

Given this social context, the Romanian Orthodox Church has the duty to continue to support and promote the family blessed by God and the values of Christian faith.

Many Romanian Orthodox faithful believe the low turnout was due to the referendum’s identification with the government, which many distrust as a corrupt institution. The vote was also seen as a popularity test for the ruling Social Democrat Party (PSD) that supported the change and whose attempts to weaken anti-corruption legislation have drawn criticism from the European Union and the Romanian people.

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