A child lifts the courtain of a voting booth as his father casts his vote, in Ciorogarla, Romania, Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018. Romanians are voting Sunday around the country for a second day on a constitutional amendment that would make it harder to legalize same-sex marriage. (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru)

Romanians vote on defining marriage; turnout major factor

October 07, 2018 - 1:21 pm

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romanians voted for a second day on a constitutional amendment that would make it harder to legalize same-sex marriage, but the referendum was in danger of being invalidated if a lot more voters didn't cast ballots by the time polls closed.

The proposed amendment would change the definition of family in Romania's Constitution to make marriage a union between a man and a woman instead of between "spouses." Same-sex marriage is already illegal in Romania.

The Central Electoral Bureau said voter turnout stood at 15.21 percent by mid-afternoon Sunday. The referendum that started Saturday needs a 30 percent turnout overall to be valid.

The influential Romanian Orthodox Church backed the amendment. Concerned about the low turnout, Patriarch Daniel urged Romanians to "vote before it's too late."

"We call on you to vote, to have this honor, to demonstrate this freedom and right," he was quoted as saying in a statement on the news website of the Romanian church.

Opponents say the new constitutional language could make LGBT people feel more like second-class citizens and could discriminate against non-traditional families. They also said the amendment was unnecessary since Romanian civil law already limits marriages to a man and a woman.

In the village of Adunati-Copaceni, south of Bucharest, the capital, only 62 people had voted by midmorning out of a total electorate of 1,147.

Priests leading services at St. Mary's Church encouraged the congregation to vote. Retired farmer Ana Buturgianu, 69, said she'd heed the advice, as did Andrei Aurelian, a 53-year-old cashier.

"The vote is for us and for our children. It's normal to have a man and a woman, not two men together," Aurelian said.

But Bucharest resident Marin Soare, 50, who was cycling through the village Sunday, boycotted the referendum, calling it "a waste of money."

"We already have traditional families in Romania and have done so for 2,000 years," he said. "And there's always been same-sex relationships."

The conservative Coalition for Family that spearheaded the referendum blamed what it called "a massive disinformation campaign" by the media, politicians and local governments for the weak voter participation.

It alleged "a general boycott by all political parties" that was "primarily directed against the Christians of Romania."

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