Amnesty International calls to stop the "traditional family" referendum

Romanian senators voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday to change article 48 of the nation's constitution to stipulate that the family is founded on the marriage between "a man and a woman", not between "spouses", as it currently states.

The vote was triggered by a petition started by a civic initiative called "The Coalition for Family" which managed to gather three million signatures in favour of a referendum on the issue.

"The mooted referendum to change the definition of family in Romania?s constitution could lead to a breach of international human rights standards and pander to homophobic discrimination in the country", an Amnesty International representative told AFP.

"The consequence is likely to be further restrictions of private and family life of same-sex couples and discrimination in every-day life", added the international organization.

Romanian law doesn't allow gay marriages, but critics of this initiative say an explicit interdiction in the constitution would make it almost impossible to change the law in favour of gay couples.

Amnesty International, together with ECSOL (European Commission on Sexual Orientation Law) and ILGA-EUROPE (European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association), says it will be "submitting written comments in an attempt to prevent" the plebiscite, which could "make it impossible to legalise same-sex unions in the future".

The government must formally announce the decision to hold a referendum -- which is supported by the leader of the ruling Social Democratic Party, strongman Liviu Dragnea. The vote is likely to take place on October 7.

The constitutionality of the bill will be reviewed next week by Romania's Constitutional Court.

"The proposed changes would be a clear backward step for Romania and would have a severe impact on the lives of families based on partnerships other than marriage", said Amnesty International.

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