Romania: “Yes” vote in homophobic referendum would be a dark day for human rights and equality

A proposed change in the definition of family in Romania’s Constitution could lead to a breach of international human rights law and increase discrimination against LGBTI people in the country, said Amnesty International ahead of a referendum this weekend.

Just 17 years after the country decriminalized same-sex sexual relations, Romanians will vote on whether to make a change the Constitution which, if passed into law, will enshrine the exclusive recognition and protection of only one type of “family”, i.e. a family founded on the marriage between a man and a woman.

“This issue should have not been put for a referendum in the first place. If approved, these changes would mark a dark day for human rights and equality in Romania,” said Barbora Černušáková, Amnesty International’s researcher on Romania.

“This referendum panders to homophobia and if approved and implemented, would not only breach Romania’s obligations under international human rights law and EU law but would also severely impact the lives of families not based on marriage and deny them the right to family life.”


The referendum will ask voters if they agree to change Article 48(1) of the Romanian Constitution so that it defines the family as “freely consented marriage of a man and a woman” rather than “spouses”. Promoters of the initiative are framing this as a vote for the “traditional family”.

Romania currently prohibits same sex marriage and does not have provisions to legally recognize same-sex partnerships.

On 27 September, Romania’s Constitutional Court recognized that same-sex couples have the right to family life. This decision upheld an earlier decision of the European Court of Justice from June 2018, which upheld the right of same-sex couples to family life in the context of freedom of movement within the EU.

A referendum result limiting the definition of the family to a marriage between a man and a woman will be contrary to the guarantee of the right to family life to all people, including same-sex couples.