Setback for same-sex marriage in Romania
Romanian LGBTI organisations received a blow when another umbrella grouping of conservative CSOs organised a large petition calling for a stricter definition of the family in Romania's constitution. The Coalition for Family, which is closely affiliated to the Romanian Orthodox Church raised three million signatures in support of a restricting the constitutional definition of the family to to heterosexual couples only. Reports note that a network of 80,000 volunteers mobilised signatures through churches across Romania. The petition, which gathered eight times the number of signatures necessary to debate the issue in parliament, comes as a huge setback to LGBTI activists campaigning for equal marriage. Despite calls for tolerance of sexual minorities from the Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, if the proposed constitutional amendment reaches a two-thirds majority in parliament it could trigger a referendum for approval. Many fear that this issue could fuel polarisation in Romanian society by legitimising hate speech against the LGBTI community; especially in the context of upcoming parliamentary elections on 11th December. The constitutional court is due to decide on 29th November whether the proposed amendments will progress to parliament.
On 22nd October, 2,000 people turned out to demonstrate in favour of the reunification of the Republic of Moldova and Romania. While approval for the route originally proposed by the organisers of the march - which included the parliament building - was denied, the march was authorised nonetheless. During the march, there were some clashes between participants and the police forces accompanying the demonstration. Five participants attempted to follow the initial route leading to the Parliament, however security forces stopped and fined them 3,000 Leu each.
Recently, Romanian politicians have increased slurs against civil society. CSOs in receipt of funding from Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros have come under fire for allegedly working to destabilise the country. In another worrying development, on 19th October a proposal was sent to the Ministry of Internal affairs seeking approval for the collection of personal data without a warrant. The move by Romanian authorities has worried many freedom of expression advocates.