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Recognition of same-sex unions in Romania

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Romania does not allow same-sex marriage or civil unions. In June 2018, the European Court of Justice ruled that under certain circumstances same-sex spouses of European Union citizens should be granted a right of residency in Romania.[1][2][3] The Constitution of Romania does not define marriage directly, but Article 48 of the Constitution defines marriages between "spouses" as the foundation of the family.[4]

In May 2023, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Romania was violating the European Convention on Human Rights by not recognizing same-sex unions.[5] The government appealed the decision to the Grand Chamber in August 2023,[6][7] but this appeal was rejected on 25 September 2023.[8] Romania is now legally obliged to recognize same-sex unions, and may risk financial sanctions from the Council of Europe if it fails to change the law.[8][9]



The primary LGBT advocacy group in Romania is ACCEPT, which advocates for partnership rights and same-sex marriage in Romania. The organisation launched a campaign to legalise same-sex registered partnerships in Romania during Bucharest Pride in 2006, which lasted from 30 May to 4 June, and was organised under the theme "Same-sex marriage and civil unions in Romania". This event provoked widespread debate over the issue in the media. ACCEPT activists organised a public debate and seminar on same-sex partnerships on 31 May 2006, and called on the Government of Romania to legalise same-sex marriage or registered partnerships, offering its assistance in drafting a legislative proposal.[10] Romaniţa Iordache, the executive director of ACCEPT, said on 31 May 2006 that "Article 200 [the last anti-gay law] has been abrogated, but we [the LGBT community] still do not have equal rights, even though the Constitution guarantees this."[11] A spokesman for ACCEPT, Florin Buhuceanu, claimed that "guaranteeing the equality of rights through the recognition of gay marriage... is just a step forward."[12]

Romania's first religious same-sex marriage ceremony was performed on 5 June 2006 following Bucharest Pride, when Florin Buhuceanu married his Spanish partner of four years. The symbolic marriage, which has no legal status in Romania, was blessed by the Metropolitan Community Church in Bucharest, an international denomination which recognises same-sex unions and supports LGBT rights. The couple officially married later in 2006 in a civil marriage in Spain, where same-sex marriage is legal.[13][14]


In June 2019, the Chamber of Deputies voted in favour of amending patient rights legislation, allowing patients to designate any person over 18 years of age as their "legal representative" through a statutory declaration. This allows a person in a same-sex relationships to visit their partner in hospital and to make medical decisions on their behalf. The initiator of the law specifically referred to the fact that 10% of Romanian couples are unmarried as one of the reasons for the reform.[15][16] The law was promulgated by President Klaus Iohannis on 24 July 2019 and came into effect on 28 July 2019.[17] While the law does not specifically mention same-sex couples, it provides a mechanism for same-sex couples to obtain equal visitation and medical decision-making rights to different-sex married couples, by appointing themselves as a "legal representative" through a public notary.

Registered partnerships


Registered partnerships (Romanian: parteneriat înregistrat, pronounced [parteˈnerjat ɨnreˈdʒistrat])[a] are not available in Romania, despite several previous unsuccessful attempts to change the law.



On 23 February 2008, Péter Eckstein-Kovács, a parliamentarian from the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania, proposed a bill to legalise registered partnerships, providing unmarried same-sex and opposite-sex couples a number of legal rights and benefits. He said that the current Family Code was "adopted more than fifty years ago and no longer reflected social realities, both in the case of homosexuals and heterosexuals".[19] This marked the first time in Romania that a politician had explicitly supported registered partnerships for same-sex couples. The bill failed to pass. Eckstein-Kovács re-introduced a partnership bill on 23 July 2008. However, that bill died in the Senate following the 2008 election.[20]

A registered partnership bill was introduced by Viorel Arion from the Democratic Liberal Party in February 2011. It would have provided same-sex and opposite-sex couples with some of the rights of marriage. It received a favourable recommendation from the Legislative Committee of the Chamber of Deputies. However, the bill was opposed by the government, and ultimately failed to pass.[21]

Green Party bills


In April 2013, MP Remus Cernea from the Green Party announced he would introduce a bill to grant same-sex couples the same rights as opposite-sex couples, prompting fierce reactions from opponents of the move.[22] Among the most vehement reactions was from Senator Puiu Hașotti, who described homosexuals as "sick people" and "not natural", prompting a formal complaint by the organization ACCEPT to the National Council for Combating Discrimination.[23][24] On 4 July 2013, Cernea introduced the bill to the Senate.[25][26] A few months later, the Romanian Government issued a statement confirming it would not support the bill, and on 17 December 2013 the bill was rejected by the Senate by 110 votes to 2.[27][28] On 13 March 2014, a judicial committee unanimously advised the Parliament to reject the proposal.[29] On 11 June 2014, the bill was rejected by the Chamber of Deputies with 298 votes opposed to the bill, 4 in favor and 5 abstentions.[30][31]

On 31 March 2015, another civil union bill was rejected by the Senate with 49 votes against the bill, 8 in favor and 3 abstentions.[32][33]

Reform attempts in 2018–2019


In April 2018, Liviu Dragnea, the President of the Chamber of Deputies, expressed his support for registered partnerships.[34][35] On 9 October 2018, just days after the failed referendum to ban same-sex marriage in the Romanian Constitution, the Minister for European Affairs, Victor Negrescu, said that a bill allowing registered partnerships had been finalized and would be introduced in mid-October.[36] However, in mid-October 2018, some media reported that the introduction of the bill had been postponed, and that the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) and Dragnea himself were no longer supportive.[37][38] On 29 October, the Senate rejected a partnership bill introduced by Oana Bîzgan, an independent.[39] On 31 October, a group of 42 deputies from different parties submitted another bill to the Chamber of Deputies.[40][41]

Two separate civil union bills were rejected by the Senate in March 2019. One bill would have recognised same-sex and opposite-sex couples "for the purpose of setting up a shared private life and household", while the other bill would have granted shared rights for couples entering a partnership and covered aspects such as succession rights, protection from domestic violence, the obligation to support an incapacitated partner, and fiscal facilities or social benefits granted by the state.[42]

Buhuceanu ruling and aftermath


On 23 May 2023, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled in Buhuceanu and Others v. Romania that the Romanian Government had violated the human rights of 21 same-sex couples by refusing to recognise their relationships.[43] The couples had sued in 2019 and 2020 for being "deprived of their dignity as spouses", and cited disadvantages, such as being barred from spousal bereavement leave, mortgage programmes or joint health insurance. The ECHR ruled that Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires the government to recognise same-sex unions.[44][45] The government was given three months to appeal the decision, but if the appeal was rejected, Romania would be required to pass legislation recognising same-sex unions, otherwise risking sanctions from the Council of Europe.[46] Reacting to the decision, President Klaus Iohannis said the topic was "a complicated issue for Romania". Members of the Orthodox Church and the Alliance for the Union of Romanians called for the decision to be "ignored", which is legally impossible.[47]

The government announced its intention to appeal the decision in August 2023.[7] According to Csaba Ferenc Asztalos, such an appeal was unlikely to succeed, as the ECHR had already ruled in the case of Fedotova and Others v. Russia in January 2023 on the same issue being appealed by the government.[6][48] If the appeal was rejected, the decision would become mandatory for all 46 members of the Council of Europe.[49]

The appeal was rejected by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights on 25 September 2023, making Buhuceanu final and definitive.[8] Romania is now legally obliged to recognize same-sex unions.[8] If the government fails to change the law and the Council of Europe launches infringement procedures, the financial sanctions faced by Romania could amount to between 1,830 and €109,800 for each day of delay (9,102 RON to 546,145 RON, as well as a minimum lump sum of €1,708,000 (8,495,592 RON).[50] Lucian Romașcanu, spokesman for the ruling Social Democratic Party, said in a statement that "the European Court's final ruling on the protection and legal recognition of LGBT families in Romania must be thoroughly analysed by the government and explained to society. Romania is committed to fulfilling its obligations as an EU member state", but also said there were "significant cultural differences" between Romania and the rest of the European Union.[51] In November 2023, when asked whether the government intended to enforce the ruling, Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu issued a statement that "Romanian society is not ready for a decision at the moment. It is not one of my priorities and… I don't think Romania is ready."[52]

2018 European Court of Justice ruling

Laws regarding same-sex partnerships in Europe¹
  Civil union
  Limited domestic recognition (cohabitation)
  Limited foreign recognition (residency rights)
  Constitution limits marriage to opposite-sex couples
¹ May include recent laws or court decisions that have not yet entered into effect.

In 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in favour of a Romanian man, Adrian Coman, who sought to have his marriage to his American husband Clai Hamilton recognised in Romania. The couple had married in Belgium in 2010, where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2003. European Union (EU) law permits a non-EU spouse of an EU citizen to join their spouse in the member state where the European national resides. However, Romanian authorities refused to issue a residence permit to Hamilton, arguing that he could not be recognised as Coman's spouse because Romanian law prohibits same-sex marriages. The couple filed suit, arguing that the refusal discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation, which is banned in Romania.[1]

The Romanian Constitutional Court heard oral arguments in the case in 2016 and later decided to consult the ECJ on the matter.[53] The ECJ began examining the case in November 2017.[54] In January 2018, Advocate General Melchior Wathelet advised the court to rule in favour of the couple:

Although member states are free to authorize marriage between persons of the same sex or not, they may not impede the freedom of residence of an E.U. citizen by refusing to grant his or her spouse of the same sex, a national of a non-E.U. country, a right of permanent residence in their territory.

Opinions of the Advocate General are not legally binding but are normally followed by the court.[55] The ECJ ruled in the couple's favour on 5 June 2018,[1] holding in Coman and Others v General Inspectorate for Immigration and Ministry of the Interior that EU member states may choose whether or not to allow same-sex marriage, but they cannot obstruct the freedom of residence of an EU citizen and their spouse. The court also ruled that the term "spouse" is gender-neutral and does not necessarily imply a person of the opposite sex.[1] Coman welcomed the ruling, saying, "We can now look in the eyes of any public official in Romania and across the EU with certainty that our relationship is equally valuable and equally relevant for the purpose of free movement within the EU."[56] White & Case, the law firm which represented the couple, and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) welcomed the court ruling, but it drew criticism from religious and conservative groups.[57] The Romanian Orthodox Church called the ruling "anti-democratic".[58]

The Court finds that the obligation for a Member State to recognise a marriage between persons of the same sex concluded in another Member State in accordance with the law of that state, for the sole purpose of granting a derived right of residence to a third-country national, does not undermine the institution of marriage in the first Member State, which is defined by national law and falls within the competence of the Member States. Such recognition does not require that Member State to provide, in its national law, for the institution of marriage between persons of the same sex. It is confined to the obligation to recognise such marriages, concluded in another Member State in accordance with the law of that state, for the sole purpose of enabling such persons to exercise the rights they enjoy under EU law.

On 18 July 2018, the Romanian Constitutional Court ruled that the state must grant residency rights to the same-sex partners of EU citizens. This followed an attempt for recognition by Coman and Hamilton following the ECJ ruling the previous month.[59][60] In March 2021, it was reported that Romania had yet to issue a residence permit to Hamilton.[61]

In September 2023, the government announced its intention to draft legislation to comply with the ECJ ruling. The draft law would allow foreign same-sex marriages performed in a European Union state to be recognized in Romania.[50]

Same-sex marriage


While running for president in 2004, Traian Băsescu said that he saw "nothing wrong" with same-sex marriage. The opposition Social Democratic Party later used his comments against him during the presidential campaign. Băsescu would serve as president from 2004 to 2014.

A lesbian couple was able to marry at Bucharest City Hall in September 2022 because one of the spouses was transgender and had not completed a legal gender change.[62]

Statutory ban


On 13 February 2008, the Senate voted in favour of an amendment to the Civil Code of Romania, proposed by the Greater Romania Party, to explicitly define marriage as being only between "a man and a woman". Previously, the law had only used the words "between spouses". The amendment was approved with 38 votes for, 10 votes against and 19 senators abstaining.[63] It was not voted on by the Chamber of Deputies, and as new elections took place at the end of that year, the legislation died.

In May 2009, a new civil code was proposed by the government. The parliamentary subcommittee responsible for drafting the Civil Code amended the definition of marriage, stating explicitly that it must be "between a man and a woman". An amendment was also passed stating that the Romanian state would not recognise foreign same-sex marriages.[64][65] Article 259(1) of the Civil Code states that marriage is "the freely consented union between one man and one woman". In addition, Article 277(1) of the code emphasizes that "marriage shall be prohibited between persons of the same sex".[66]

Attempts to pass constitutional ban


Article 48 of the Constitution of Romania states:

The family is founded on the freely consented marriage of the spouses, their full equality, as well as the right and duty of the parents to ensur the upbringing, education and instruction of their children.[b]

Amending the Romanian Constitution requires approval by the people through a referendum. Until 2014, referendums required a 50% voter turnout to be valid,[69] but changes to electoral law subsequently reduced this to 30%.[70]

June 2013 attempts


On 5 June 2013, a parliamentary committee tasked with reviewing the Constitution voted to include sexual orientation as a protected ground against discrimination. The same committee voted, the following day, to change the text on marriage from "the family is founded on the freely consented marriage of the spouses" to "the family is founded on the freely consented marriage between a man and a woman alone", thus banning same-sex marriage.[71] Green MP Remus Cernea described the move to ban same-sex marriage as "clearly a democratic setback; Romania should now be included among the most homophobic countries in the world."[71] Many NGOs opposed the move to ban same-sex marriage and released a common statement arguing that the provision prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation should remain in the Constitution.[72] Florin Buhuceanu, the executive director of ACCEPT, said: "We see the scale of schizophrenia: one day you accept sexual orientation as a constitutional protected ground [against discrimination], the next day you act discriminately on the basis of sexual orientation proposing a different treatment for these citizens of Romania of this sexual orientation."[73] Csaba Ferenc Asztalos, president of the National Council for Combating Discrimination, thought that the new amendments "are brought to the table just to manipulate, just to incite, just to serve other goals then a real problem (...) [and] that at this point we are channeling the societal hatred through acts like the Constitution only, for example, to have [political] quorum (...) and this is not normal".[74]

Faced with backlash from civil society and domestic and international organizations,[75] the committee retracted both amendments. Save Romania Union was the only party with parliamentary representation that positioned itself against a potential referendum to amend the constitutional definition of the family and ban same-sex marriage in Romania.[76]

2018 referendum

Protests against the referendum at the University Square in Bucharest, September 2018

The Romanian Government announced plans to hold a referendum in the fall of 2017, following a successful citizens' initiative by a group opposed to same-sex marriage, the Coaliția pentru Familie, which collected an estimated 3 million signatures in support of banning same-sex marriage.[77] The Chamber of Deputies approved the initiative on 9 May 2017 in a 232–22 vote.[78] However, no referendum was held that year. The government proposed to hold the referendum in May or June 2018, though these months also passed without a vote.[35][79][80][81] Eventually, the referendum was confirmed to be held on 6 and 7 October 2018.[82] The referendum proceeded as planned on 6 and 7 October, and cost an estimated 43 million. It failed to achieve validity as the turnout was 21.1%, well below the 30% required under the law.[83] The lowest turnout (8.5%) was recorded in Covasna County. The highest turnout (30.7%) was in Suceava County, the only county to surpass the 30% threshold.[84]

2018 Constitutional Court ruling


On 27 September 2018, less than two weeks before the referendum to ban same-sex marriage, the Constitutional Court of Romania ruled that same-sex couples have the same rights to privacy and family life as heterosexual couples. The ruling, hailed as "landmark" by LGBT advocacy groups, stated that legal rights and obligations should be equal under law.[85][86] However, the court also ruled that the term "spouses" can only refer to a "man and woman", since this was the intention of the original constitutional lawmakers.[87]

Political viewpoints


With the exceptions of the Save Romania Union and the Green Party, none of Romania's major political parties, either in government or in opposition, explicitly support same-sex marriage or registered partnerships, or have proposed any law regarding it, resulting in the debate about this issue in the political sphere being more reserved than in civil society and the media.

On 6 June 2006, the Cotidianul newspaper conducted interviews with representatives of the five main political parties, asking them about their stance on same-sex marriage.[88] Crin Antonescu, the leader of the parliamentary delegation of the National Liberal Party, part of the governing coalition, declined to give an official party view on the matter. Instead, he said that "both the party and myself have given proof that we are in favour of recognising sexual minorities. However, personally I am against marriage between people of the same sex." The leader of the Democratic Party, also part of the governing coalition, was similarly elusive, stating that: "Now is not the right moment to talk about this issue [same-sex marriage]. We now have other much more important things to do regarding European integration. Let's integrate firstly, and then we can see the way in which mentalities change. Eventually, we will discuss this issue then." Romania's EU accession took place in January 2007. Mayor Liviu Negoiţă of Sector 3 in Bucharest said that "if a law will exist [legalising same-sex marriage], I will respect it. As a mayor, I don't have any other choice. Personally, I respect the sexual choice of each person".[89] The largest opposition party, the Social Democrats, whose stance on social issues is usually more conservative than that of the then-governing parties, stated that they would "not initiate and would not support such a legislative proposal". However, the party's official spokesperson also proclaimed that, "a public debate [on same-sex marriage] is necessary, in order to see in what way the standards regarding fundamental liberties can be improved in regard to people with another sexual orientation".

Opposition was seen most clearly from the far-right, nationalist Greater Romania Party. The vice-president of the party stated that "clearly, we wouldn't initiate such a legislative proposal, since we're a Christian party. The sin of sodomy is one of the biggest [sins]." The Conservative Party was less vocal in its opposition to same-sex marriage, with Octavian Petrovici, the vice-president of the party's Bucharest division, stating about same-sex couples that "it's their own choice, and in the same way that we respect the option of every citizen, we respect the choice of these people. However, it is a long way from respecting a choice to making special laws, which do not match the values and principles that our party affirms." On 27 November 2006, the women's wing of the Conservative Party adopted a resolution opposing same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples. The resolution declared that "the family has as its primary aim our continuity and we will continue to support its development, particularly since we will be confronted in the future with an accentuated process of aging and a significant reduction in the population. We reject categorically the legalisation of same-sex marriage."[90] On 10 June 2007, after Bucharest Pride, the Conservative Party reiterated its position on same-sex marriage, stating: "The sexual options of each citizen are accepted and respected in Romania, but from here until the adoption of special laws for sexual minorities is too long a way. We support the definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman."[91]

Public opinion


The 2015 Eurobarometer found that 21% of Romanians supported same-sex marriage. This represented a 10% increase from 2006. Support across the European Union was 61%.[92]

According to a 2017 Pew Research Center poll, 26% of Romanians supported same-sex marriage, while 74% were opposed. Opposition was 66% among 18–34-year-olds.[93] An IRES (Institutul Roman pentru Evaluare si Strategie) poll conducted in December 2018 found that 27% of Romanians supported same-sex marriage, while 72% were opposed and 1% were undecided or did not answer. In addition, 38% of Romanians supported registered partnerships, while 60% were opposed and 2% were undecided or did not answer.[94]

The 2019 Eurobarometer found that 29% of Romanians thought same-sex marriage should be allowed throughout Europe, while 63% were against.[95]

An ACCEPT 2021 study, carried out by telephone questionnaires on 1,064 people aged 18 years old and over, showed that 43% of respondents supported reforms to allow either civil unions or same-sex marriage. This figure was twice what had been reported in 2016. Of those questioned, 68% said that same-sex families should be protected by the law in Romania like all other families. The majority of those that expressed support for allowing same-sex marriage also supported allowing same-sex couples to raise children.[96][97]

A GLOBSEC survey conducted in March 2023 showed that 37% of Romanians supported same-sex marriage, while 58% were opposed.[98] The 2023 Eurobarometer found that 25% of respondents thought same-sex marriage should be allowed throughout Europe, while 69% were opposed. The survey also found that 27% of Romanians thought that "there is nothing wrong in a sexual relationship between two persons of the same sex", while 68% disagreed. This was the second lowest level of support for same-sex marriage in the European Union, ahead only of Bulgaria.[99]

See also



  1. ^ Hungarian: bejegyzett élettársi kapcsolat, pronounced [ˈbɛjɛɟzɛtː ˈeːlɛtːaːrʃi ˈkɒpt͡ʃolɒt]; Romani: registrovano partnerskap.[18]
  2. ^ In Romanian: Familia se întemeiază pe căsătoria liber consimţită între soţi, pe egalitatea acestora şi pe dreptul şi îndatorirea părinţilor de a asigura creşterea, educaţia şi instruirea copiilor.[67]
    In Hungarian: A család a házastársak szabad akaratnyilvánításából létrejött házasságon, a házastársak egyenlőségén és a szülők azon jogán és kötelezettségén alapul, hogy biztosítsák a gyermekek eltartását, nevelését és oktatását.[68]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Same-sex spouses have EU residency rights, top court rules". BBC News. 5 June 2018.
  2. ^ a b JUDGMENT OF THE COURT (Grand Chamber) 5 June 2018
  3. ^ Legal effects of EUCJ Decision on Coman case - RO EUCJ interpreted the word "spouse" from Directive 2004/38 to include same-sex spouses invoking that EU law is autonomous system of law and its terms have autonomous meaning
  4. ^ art. 48, alin. (1) Constituția României - "Familia se întemeiază pe căsătoria liber consimţită între soţi, pe egalitatea acestora şi pe dreptul şi îndatorirea părinţilor de a asigura creşterea, educaţia şi instruirea copiilor."
  5. ^ Necșuțu, Mădălin (23 May 2023). "Romania Discriminates Against Same-Sex Couples: Strasbourg Court". Balkan Insight.
  6. ^ a b Pavel, Andreea (24 May 2023). "Klaus Iohannis, despre decizia CEDO privind obligația României de a recunoaște parteneriatele între persoane de același sex: "O chestiune complicată pentru România, trebuie să se ocupe Parlamentul"". G4Media.ro (in Romanian). Retrieved 6 August 2023.
  7. ^ a b Ruscior, Cosmin (28 August 2023). "Florina Presadă (Accept): Decizia Guvernului de a contesta hotărârea CEDO este un gest rușinos". RFI România: Actualitate, informaţii, ştiri în direct (in Romanian). Retrieved 1 September 2023.
  8. ^ a b c d Prundea, Madalina (26 September 2023). "BREAKING NEWS Judecătorii de la Marea Cameră a CEDO au decis: România este obligată să recunoască familiile formate din persoane de același sex". Gândul (in Romanian). Retrieved 28 September 2023.
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  25. ^ (in Romanian) Propunere legislativă privind parteneriatul civil (Legislative proposal on the civil partnership)
  26. ^ (Romanian) Propunere legislativă privind parteneriatul civil
  27. ^ (Romanian)L597/2013|raport de respingere
  28. ^ Punct de vedere - Guvernul Romaniei
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  32. ^ (Voting Results)PL 670/2013| L 52/2015 Vot raport de respingere
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  54. ^ Romania Gay Marriage Case Could Have Outsize Impact in Europe, The New York Times, 21 November 2017
  55. ^ Gay spouses have rights in all EU countries, says European court official, The Guardian, 11 January 2018
  56. ^ EU states must recognize foreign same-sex marriages: court, Reuters, 5 June 2018
  57. ^ Landmark EU marriage ruling hailed as big win for gay rights, Thomson Reuters Foundation News, 5 June 2018
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