European Forum

of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Christian Groups

Romanian Referendum on the Definition of “Family”: European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups Appalled by Romanian Orthodox Church Support, Urges Boycott

The European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups is extremely concerned by the upcoming referendum in Romania on 6 and 7 October 2018, which will determine whether to alter the currently neutral definition of “family” to one including only married, different-sex couples.

The European Forum fully supports a boycott of the referendum called for by activists in Romania and by ILGA Europe and urges the Romanian Orthodox Church to withdraw its support for such a divisive, discriminatory proposal.


On 17 September, the Romanian Constitutional Court approved a request to hold a referendum on changing the definition of “family” in the Constitution (Article 48.1). A minimum of 30 per cent electoral turnout is required for the referendum to be legitimate. If it comes into force, only different-sex couples who are married will be considered “families” under the Constitution, representing a huge threat to parents, children, human rights, and the rule of law.

Not just an LGBT+ issue

If successful, the initiative will not only discriminate against LGBT+ people, but also other “unconventional” family set-ups that do not conform to the new definition.

The European Forum stresses that the issue at stake here is not merely one for so called “rainbow families” – those that are headed by two mothers or two fathers – but for single parents, grandparents raising grandchildren, and multi-generational families, too. Anyone living in such a situation is in danger of losing certain rights and facing exclusion, discrimination, and hatred.

Highly concerning position of the Romanian Orthodox Church

The European Forum is deeply and especially concerned by the Romanian Orthodox Church’s decision to support this openly discriminatory proposal which leaves LGBT+ people even more vulnerable to attack in a country which is already one of the least tolerant in the European Union (EU). Since 2015, the Romanian Orthodox Church has lent its name to a nationwide campaign to persuade the Romanian Constitutional Court to recognise the referendum.

“While we acknowledge the independent moral authority of any church, we are appalled by the position of the Romanian Orthodox Church in this matter,” says Wielie Elhorst, Co-President of the European Forum.

“By choosing to appeal for a constitutional change that excludes so many from their basic human rights, it is openly supporting discrimination between people. If anything, churches should engage in bringing people together and, even more importantly, be sensitive towards those who are in the margins of society and who face the danger of daily discrimination and hate.”

The European Forum has heard from its Romanian partners at ECPI – Euroregional Center for Public Initiatives (established in 2008 in partnership with MCC Bucharest; and ILGA-Europe how LGBT+ people are seen as a “threat” to “traditional values” in the country, with the upcoming referendum fanning the flames of discrimination by increasing the stigmatisation and vulnerability of the community. Through a letter to the Conference of European Churches, the European Forum calls upon all churches to embrace the values of the EU: dignity and equality for all, non-discrimination and solidarity, values that are so closely connected to the values of the Christian tradition.

A distraction from other problems in Romania

The European Forum is also aware of the corruption scandal currently plaguing the Romanian government, for which the referendum serves as a timely and useful diversion. The true nature of this referendum is as an attack on all families, an infringement on the human rights and liberties of people in Romania, and another step further away from EU values of tolerance, equality, and dignity of all people.

Concerningly, on 18 September 2018, the Romanian government issued an emergency ordinance declaring that the referendum would take place across two days, instead of the one day that is usual referendum procedure in Romania. This changing of the rules so late in the game – to prolong the voting period and increase the likelihood of the 30 per cent threshold being met – is a clear attempt by the government to influence the outcome of the referendum by bending the rules of the state for its own purposes.

Boycott to prevent the critical threshold being reached

The European Forum calls upon Romanians to boycott the referendum in order to prevent the 30 per cent electoral turnout threshold – required to legitimise the vote – from being reached. If enough of the population can be convinced to withhold their vote, the referendum will fail, and a strong message will be sent that the Romanian people have no interest in supporting discrimination and corruption.  

How to help outside Romania

The European Forum urges all its members to support our friends and allies in Romania who may be fearful for their safety and comfort as a result of this referendum.

The European Forum asks that this call to boycott the referendum be disseminated urgently across any networks its members may have in Romania, and asks its member groups to update their communications activities to reflect our shared resistance to this inflammatory, discriminatory initiative that puts broader family rights and freedoms at risk.