Romania vote to restrict gay marriage fails: final results

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A man casts his vote on October 6, 2018, in Darasti, Romania. Romanians are expected to go to the polls on Saturday and Sunday to choose if they agree or not with the proposal to change the Constitution so it stipulates that marriage is between a man and a woman, not simply “spouses”, as it currently states. From a legal stance nothing will change, no matter the outcome of the vote, for the Romanian law doesn’t allow same-sex marriage. But critics of the initiative say an explicit definition of what constitutes a family would make it almost impossible to change the law in favour of same-sex couples. Amnesty International called it a breach of international human rights standards and underlined that it would amount to homophobic discrimination. / AFP PHOTO / Andrei PUNGOVSCHI

A controversial Romanian referendum aimed at restricting the definition of marriage to exclude same-sex couples has failed after turnout fell well below the threshold, final results showed on Monday.

Barely one-fifth of Romania’s 19 million voters turned out to cast their ballots in the weekend referendum which had drawn heavy criticism from rights groups and the European Union.

But of the 3.7 million who did show up for the vote, which took place over two days, just over 3.4 million — around 92 percent — were in favour of the proposed change, the electoral office said.

Voters were asked if they were in favour of changing the constitution to define marriage as being between a man and a woman, rather than just between “spouses” as it currently stands.

Around 242,000 people voted against the change and 74,000 votes were annulled, it said.

To be valid, the referendum needed a minimum turnout of 30 percent.

But with 79.6 percent of voters failing to show up to cast their ballots, the vote was written off, even though the vast majority were in favour of the change.

The failure deals a heavy blow to the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD), which had decided to press ahead with the referendum — despite EU objections.

The plebiscite was masterminded by groups close to the Orthodox Church, but drew widespread criticism from rights organisations and Romania’s LGBT community, which said it would make it almost impossible for gay and lesbian couples to marry in future.

Romanian law does not currently allow same-sex couples to marry or enter into civil partnerships.

On Monday, critics slammed the referendum as a waste of public money, and also condemned the homophobic rhetoric of the “yes” campaign.

The powerful Orthodox church, which had explicitly backed the referendum, conceded defeat, but insisted it had done its “civic and moral duty” in campaigning for the “yes” side.