Kim Davis just won’t go away.
The Rowan County, Ky. clerk is traveling Romania this week to lobby in favor of a proposed plebiscite on whether marriage should be restricted to one man and one woman. Davis, who went to jail for six days after refusing to sign marriage certificates for same-sex couples in 2015, will be speaking on behalf of Liberty Counsel. Romanian-born Harry Mihet, the anti-LGBTQ law firm’s litigation director, will be accompanying her.
Davis is set to speak at “An American Testimony of Freedom of Conscience,” an event hosted by the right-wing Coalition for the Family.
In 2015, the Coalition gained more than 3 million signatures in favor of an anti-marriage referendum that could be voted on this fall. The plebiscite, which will ask citizens whether the country’s constitution should bar same-sex couples from marrying, must pass both houses of Parliament before going on the ballot. After being unanimously endorsed by the country’s Constitutional Court, the Romanian Senate is the only thing that stands in the way of a nationwide vote.
As extremely few politicians in the Eastern European nation openly support marriage equality, it’s likely to pass.
Liberty Counsel, who defended Davis against numerous lawsuits stemming from her denial of same-sex couples’ civil rights, notes in a press release that Davis will be embarking on a country-wide tour. The county clerk will be stopping in Bucharest, Cluj, Sibiu, Timisoara, and Iasi. LGBTQ advocates tell INTO that she could be making as many as 10 appearances over the next nine days.
The law firm states that the message Davis will be promoting is simple: “Same-sex ‘marriage’ and freedom of conscience are mutually exclusive, because those who promote the former have zero tolerance for the latter.”
Human rights advocates say that Davis’ visit is an “attempt to export hate and discrimination in the guise of ‘religious freedom.’”
“The human right to freedom of religion does not allow people to impose their religious beliefs on others or limit the rights of others in the name of religion,” Tarah Demant, director of the gender, sexuality, and identity program at Amnesty International, tells INTO in an exclusive statement. “This perversion of ‘religious freedom’ must not be allowed to become a license to discriminate against LGBTQ people or anyone else.”
Liberty, which is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, has long been at the center of Romania’s campaign against the rights of LGBTQ citizens. Earlier this year, the organization filed a brief with the Romanian Constitutional Court arguing that “engaging in homosexual conduct is dangerous.”
Although LGBTQ Romanians have enjoyed increasing visibility in recent years, it remains one of Europe’s most conservative countries.
A 2015 survey from the Eurobarometer public opinion poll found that just 36 percent of Romanians believe that LGBTQ people should have equal rights to other citizens. An even lower percentage, just 26 percent, see nothing wrong with sexual relations between two members of the same gender. Around one in five Romanians support marriage equality.
Even young people, who are traditionally more accepting, have struggled to support LGBTQ rights. Half of Romanian students said they would not be OK with having a queer or trans classmate. Forty percent felt LGBTQ people should not be allowed to teach in schools.
Politicians have claimed that a marriage referendum could be voted on as early as this fall.
In addition to helping push through this effort, Liberty Counsel has been busy in recent months. The anti-LGBTQ group has come out against peaceful protests of police brutality by NFL players and in favor of flying a flag bearing the Christian cross over Boston City Hall.