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Report: U.S. Hate Groups Backing Referendum to Ban Same-Sex Marriage in Romania

As Romania prepares to vote on same-sex marriage, equality opponents are being supported by powerful allies in the United States.

Two American anti-LGBTQ groups filed amicus briefs to the Romanian Constitutional Court backing a referendum on whether to prohibit same-sex couples from marrying. Currently, Article 48 the Romanian Constitution defines marriage in gender-neutral terms — as a union between “spouses.”

Romania is one of just six European Union member countries where marriage equality has yet to be legalized. If Romanians vote “Yes” in next month’s plebiscite vote, it will effectively close that potential constitutional loophole.

The organizations who urged the court to allow the referendum to move forward will be no stranger to LGBTQ people in the United States.

As was originally reported by the Southern Poverty Law Center, these entities include Liberty Counsel and the Alliance Defending Freedom, two of the nation’s most high profile anti-LGBTQ organizations. Both have been classified by the Montgomery, Ala.-based watchdogs as “hate groups” for spreading false propaganda about queer and trans people in order to deny them equality.

Liberty Counsel, the right-wing law group most widely known for defending Kim Davis in court, referred to same-sex marriage as an “undefined experimental artificial social construct” in a 2016 brief submitted to the Constitutional Court.

“[Same-sex marriage] is grounded in human experimentation, specifically the sexual abuse of children, and skewed demographics aimed at upending the established social order,” the extremist organization wrote. “It is akin to moving a family from a house that has withstood centuries of storms by being anchored upon granite to a rickety cabin placed atop quicksand a few years ago.”

The brief also alleges that same-sex parents are more likely to abuse their children and kids raised in LGBTQ households experience disproportionate rates of depression and suicidal ideation.

These claims are false. Numerous studies have shown the children of same-sex couples have identical life outcomes as their peers.

Liberty Counsel was joined in its fight to ban marriage equality in Romania by the Alliance Defending Freedom, the conservative legal group behind the Masterpiece Cakeshop case at the Supreme Court. The ADF has notably pushed anti-trans bathroom bills in more than a dozen states and opposed the Supreme Court’s decision to decriminalize homosexuality nationwide in Lawrence v. Texas.

Also submitted in 2016, the ADF brief claims a constitutional amendment outlawing marriage equality would not deprive the LGBTQ community of its rights “since there is no right to ‘marriage’ between people of the same sex.”

“For these reasons, it is clear that …the revision of the Romanian Constitution fully respects the Constitution of Romania, international human rights standards, and the jurisprudence of international tribunals,” reads the document submitted by ADF International, its Belgium-based foreign office.

The Alliance Defending Freedom and Liberty Counsel aren’t the only American groups backing the referendum. The World Congress of Families (WCF) also joined the fight to ban same-sex marriages abroad.

More than 100 conservative leaders in 22 countries signed a 2016 statement from the WCF claiming that same-sex marriages “weaken the natural family.”

“We applaud the Romanian people for taking this courageous step in defense of a divinely ordained institution which predates governments and on whose health the future of society depends,” claimed the international network of pro-family organizations, which reportedly lobbied on behalf of Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” law prior to its 2013 passage.

Signatories included Janet Folger of Faith2Action, Carol Soelberg of United Families International, and Don Wildmon of the American Family Association (AFA).

All were classified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2017.

After years of lobbying the Constitutional Court, the anti-LGBTQ groups got their wish in September 2018. Following a 7-2 vote, judges with the nine-member bench allowed the referendum vote to proceed. Just days earlier, Romania’s Senate approved the national plebiscite by a similarly decisive 94-vote margin.

A vote against same-sex marriage in the referendum — which will be held between Oct. 6 and 7 — would be a major blow to a community that already faces severe marginalization.

Although Romania decriminalized homosexuality in 1996 and banned anti-LGBTQ discrimination in housing exactly a decade later, same-sex couples are not permitted to adopt. Meanwhile, conversion therapy remains legal and MSMs (men who have sex with men) are banned from donating blood.

The Eastern European nation finished 35th in ILGA’s annual ranking of the continent’s most progressive countries on LGBTQ rights. It tied with Lithuania and the Ukraine.

It shouldn’t be surprising, though, that U.S. hate groups have taken an active hand in preventing forward momentum on equality in Romania. Last year, Liberty Counsel took Davis — who was jailed for five days after refusing marriage licenses to same-sex couples as a clerk for Rowan County, Ky. — on a nine-day tour of the country.

As INTO previously reported, the conservative figurehead was referred to as a “prisoner of conscience” during her speaking gigs.

“[Davis] came and cried at all of her conferences,” claimed Vlad Viski, president of the advocacy organization MozaiQ, in an October interview. “She said that she was humiliated because of her belief in God. She talks about good and evil, and how nowadays evil is considered good and good is considered evil.”

Liberty Council treated Davis “like a martyr,” according to Viski.

“The freedom of conscience transcends national, cultural, religious and denominational lines, and Romanians are determined to prevent such injustice from ever happening again in their country,” claimed Harry Mihet, the vice president of legal affairs counsel for Liberty Counsel and a native-born Romanian.

It remains to be seen whether Liberty Counsel’s advocacy will affect next month’s vote.

While Viski claimed the visit wasn’t taken seriously by the vast majority of Romanians, there are signs the anti-LGBTQ tactics deployed by American hate groups are catching on.

A front-page spread in this week’s România Liberă newspaper depicted a drag queen in full Nazi regalia next to the headline: “New LGBTQ Order.” Claiming the movement for queer and trans rights represents “equality but not for Christians,” the publication cited Davis as an example of how LGBTQ activists discriminate against people of faith.

“From the loss of employment to harassment and… arrest, the abuse is widespread and driven by a socially toxic climate caused by the so-called social ‘justice’ of left-wing activists,” writers Anghel Buturuga and Cătălin Sturza claimed.

Opinion polls indicate just 26 percent of Romanians support same-sex marriage. Three million citizens signed a petition backing the referendum in 2016.

Image via Getty


Nico Lang

Nico Lang is a staff writer for INTO, covering news, politics, and global LGBTQ issues.