Officials in Romania this week voided the results of a long-awaited referendum on the constitutional definition of marriage after it failed to get the voter participation needed to validate the results.
More than 90 percent of those who voted over the weekend, nearly 4 million people, declared their support for a Biblical definition of marriage as between one man and one woman. But a little more than 20 percent of eligible voters participated, short of the 30 percent needed for the results to be implemented.
The lack of participation did not come down to a lack of support for traditional marriage, but instead a campaign of suspicion about the intent of the referendum, Adina Portaru, a Romanian attorney who works as legal counsel with the international branch of Alliance Defending Freedom, told me. The question on the referendum, determined by Romanian law, was ambiguous: “Do you agree with the law on the revision of the Constitution, as adopted by the Parliament?” This led to suspicion that the referendum was actually not about marriage, but instead a political agenda to give unfettered power to politicians to change the constitution.
Those who had been following the progression of the referendum the last two years—a grassroots effort to enshrine Biblical marriage in the country’s constitution—were unfazed by the question, but many others were convinced the question was a political power grab.
LGBT advocacy groups pushed the narrative that you cannot put human rights, or love, to a vote, but Portaru said the mistaken threat of carte blanche political power was the argument that received the most traction among Romanians and convinced many to stay home.
“If the question was clear on marriage we would have seen a different outcome,” Portaru said. “More on the no side and much more on the yes side. That was really the stumbling point on the referendum.”
But the referendum did unite a dedicated bloc of Romanians who believe in marriage. Nearly 4 million voters did not achieve the 30 percent necessary, but it’s a sizable force in a country of less than 20 million.
“These people now realize that there is an active role they can play in society and that they are a huge number,” Portaru said. —K.C.