Coaliția pentru Familie
Coaliția pentru Familie (Romanian pronunciation: [ko.aˈlit͡si.a ˈpentru faˈmili.e], English: Coalition for Family) is an association of about 30 Romanian non-governmental organizations. It seeks to promote the traditional family, in particular by amending the Constitution of Romania to define marriage as "the union between a man and a woman, a process that will have no juridical effect whatsoever, being just a waste of energy and money". It is also involved in the anti-abortion movement.
In 2016, 'Coaliția pentru familie' gathered 3 million signatures in favor of replacing "spouses" with "a man and a woman" in article 48 of the Romanian constitution. Immediately after the 3 million signatures were submitted to the Romanian Parliament, an open letter was published in the support of LGBT community, signed by 1000 public figures (including film producers, pop singers, people from the fashion industry, artists, intellectuals). The letter of support soon became an online petition raised over 10.000 more signatures. The American evangelical Christian organization Liberty Counsel and Alliance Defending Freedom International have both publicly supported the initiative and have submitted briefs to the Constitutional Court in support of a referendum. The Romanian Orthodox Church also announced its official support for the initiative in mid-January 2016. In July 2016, the Constitutional Court issued a unanimous ruling that allows the referendum proposal to move forward. In response, LGBT advocacy groups, like Accept, MozaiQ and TRANSform, expressed dissatisfaction with CCR’s decision, claiming that it could lead "to a rise in social tensions and hate crimes". On July 20, 2016, right after the Constitutional Court released its decision allowing the initiative to ban gay marriage in the Constitution to move forward, the LGBT community reacted and organized an unauthorized protest in University Square in Bucharest, with an attendance of 50.
Under Romanian law, the constitution can be changed after a proposal by the president, the government, a quarter of the members of the Parliament of Romania or at least 500,000 citizens. Parliament must then approve the revision, which must then pass a nationwide referendum. The coalition's efforts to amend the constitution have been ongoing since 2013, when Amnesty International helped defeat a similar amendment. However, it participated in a successful campaign against the introduction of civil partnerships into law. Other proposals presented by the coalition include the taxation of celibacy, the banning of adoptions by single parents and the active discouragement of sexual intercourse between unmarried persons.
Controversies and criticism
The coalition bills itself as an independent civic initiative, unaffiliated to any religion. However, among its 43 listed members, many share strong political and religious views. Southern Povery Law Center calls the association "a nebulous umbrella group of local rightwing organizations" and raises concerns over the involvement of groups, such as Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), Liberty Counsel, World Congress of Families (WCF) and "European Center of Law and Justice" (ECLJ), who filed legal briefs, lobbied or campaigned in favor of the change.
APOR (The Association for Parents pro Religious Courses) is at the top of the list, which successfully campaigned for religious classes in schools, and has its headquarters in the social center of The Archdiocese of Bucharest. Other religious NGOs are „Vladimir Ghika” - The Association of Romanian Catholic Families, Association Ieromonah Arsenie Boca, several Christian-Orthodox associations and an Orthodox news website called "Lăcașuri Ortodoxe".
Pro Vita București and Alianța Familiilor are two other notable members with a strong pro-life stance, which also favor conversion therapy treatments. An internal document from Pro Vita, which presents its political agenda for Romania, deems sexual minorities "morally inferior", and states that divorce, same-sex marriage, abortion (even for rape cases), and contraception do not pertain to the individual's private life. Pro Vita seeks to "impose authentic moral principles" based on a "God-given natural law" onto society at large, including all those who oppose their views.
The Romanian Accept and Mozaiq organizations have been highly critical of the initiative and have raised concerns about its members. Accept draws attention to the fact that Mihai Gheorghiu, who is leading the initiative group, is also one of the main instigators of the 2013 "homophobic attack" at a public cinema. The U.S. Embassy has also accused Mihai Gheorghiu of organizing the anti-LGBT protest at said location, where attendees wielded signs reading "Die Faggots" and made Nazi salutes.
Pro Vita București organisation is led by Bogdan Stanciu who also managed the Romanian branch of AlterMedia before 2007, an international extremist network founded by American white nationalist and former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke. Stanciu was a member of Noua Dreaptă between 2000 and 2005, a nationalist far-right organization linked to physical attacks against gays. He now denies any connections with the party. Stanciu is also the founder of the "Eurosceptic", an anti-EU and anti-immigration blog. Accept says Stanciu has close ties to Aleksandr Dugin, a Russian political scientist known for his fascist views.
Peter Costea, the founder of Alianța Familiilor, was one of the coordinators of the first initiative to amend the Constitution to define marriage as "the union between a man and a woman" back in 2006. As his website states, it was done "with the help of affluent religious personalities in Romania". There are also strong concerns about the rising hate crimes against gays and the stigmatization of the LGBT community due to the campaign against same sex marriage.
Romania’s president, Klaus Iohannis, the then Prime Minister Dacian Cioloș and socialist leader Liviu Dragnea have clashed over the rights of same-sex couples in the country. In a speech in October 2016, Klaus Iohannis has called for tolerance and acceptance for minorities as the country considers banning same-sex marriage, noting he himself was part of two minorities as he is ethnically German and Lutheran, in a primarily Christian Orthodox country. Dacian Cioloș voiced his support for the ‘traditional family’, while Liviu Dragnea declared himself to be a religious fanatic.
On October 7, 2016 the Parliament was set to debate a potential referendum which would see citizens vote on whether the constitution should define marriage as between a man and a woman, but it has decided to postpone the issue until after the upcoming elections.
On November 19, 2016, the LGBT community in Bucharest organized a march with over 500 people in attendance, right in the middle of the campaign for the parliamentary elections, when the issue of gay marriage had become one of the topics debated. Right after the LGBT march on November 19, titled “God Doesn’t Do Politics”, one of the LGBT activists who helped organize the event, received death threats over the phone.
In October 2017 Coaliția pentru Familie and Liberty Counsel toured Romania with Kim Davis, the person who refused to legalize a same-sex marriage in USA, pushing the message that "religious persecution" would be the fate of the Romanian people if same sex marriage was passed.
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