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Romania Bans Marriage Equality

by Kilian Melloy
Thursday Jul 23, 2009
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The formerly communist country Romania is so riddled with corruption and organized crime that it was the subject of a recent European Union that included 16 directives to the country to help it reform; according to a July 22 New York Times article, the report found that, "... the positive results of concrete reform efforts at technical level remain fragmented, reforms have not yet taken firmly root, and shortcomings persist."

Moreover, the government had not succeeded in addressing widespread corruption; the report found it "...striking that virtually none of the cases of highest public interest have yet reached a decision."

But lawmakers in Romanian have found one quick and easy political sop: the government there has banned marriage equality for its gay and lesbian families.

Romania suffered terribly under dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu, whose legacy includes a large number of AIDS orphans in that country.

The Romanian government has been beset by corruption since then; now, gay and lesbian families find themselves further marginalized in a country that skeptics did not think was ready or suited for membership in European Union when it joined two and a half years ago.

The limitation on the rights and freedoms of gay and lesbian families in the former communist dictatorship is reportedly due in part to the work of an American religious organization.

The anti-gay Christian legal organization Alliance Defense Fund boasted of the new anti-family measure at its Web site, where a July 20 article claimed that the group and an "allied attorney provided instrumental legal counsel to Romanian Parliament."

The posting carried a quote from a Europe-based member of ADF’s legal counsel.

Said Roger Kiska, "Marriage is not just any two people in a committed relationship. There’s more to a marriage than that."

Kiska hailed the anti-family legislation as providing "valuable new protections," and said, "We especially appreciate the work done by our allies working hard on the ground in Romania on behalf of the Romanian people, who want marriage protected."

Added Kiska, "Romania is one country where American judicial activists will find no support."

Currently, seven nations worldwide offer gay and lesbian citizens family equality, allowing them to marry their life partners.

In the United States, only a handful of states allow the same recognition to gay and lesbian families, but no federal recognition is allowed due to the 1996 "Defense of Marriage Act," which bars marriage protections for any but mixed-gender couples.

A lawyer affiliated with the group, Peter Costea, was also quoted.

Said Costea, "At this time in history, we should be strengthening marriage, not tearing it down."

Added Costea, "Government officials take notice when the people make their will known. That’s what happened in Romania."

In other areas, Romania has made progress in terms of legal equality for its GLBT citizens, including the decriminalization of consensual same-sex intimacy, the equalization of age-of-consent laws, and the enactment federal laws addressing anti-gay bias crimes.

In that last regard, Romania has outstripped the U.S., which as yet offers no federal protections for its GLBT citizens.

In another area as well, military service by gays and lesbians, Romanian law has progressed beyond that in America, where gay troops may only serve as long as they keep silent about their true sexuality.

However, some stigma against gays does linger. Besides the new anti-family law, a challenge to the right of gays and lesbians to assemble for the GayFest parade, which takes place every year in Bucharest, was defeated only last year; the parade still faces sometimes violent opposition from far-right political groups.

Moreover, the nation’s gay and lesbian citizens face opprobrium from their own countrymen, especially outside of urban areas.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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