Romanians Vote on Changing Marriage

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) -- Romanians were voting Sunday for a second day on a constitutional amendment backed by the influential Romanian Orthodox Church that would make it harder to legalize same-sex marriage.

The conservative Coalition for Family initiated the referendum and Orthodox priests during Sunday services encouraged the faithful to vote.

The proposed amendment would change the definition of family in Romania's Constitution to make marriage a union between a man and a woman instead of between "spouses." Same-sex marriage is already illegal in Romania.

The Central Electoral Bureau said 11.67 percent of voters had cast a ballot by lunchtime Sunday in the two-day referendum. The vote requires a 30 percent turnout to be valid.

Concerned about the low turnout, Patriarch Daniel on Sunday called on Romanians who hadn't vote to "vote before it's too late."

"We call on you to vote, to have this honor, to demonstrate this freedom and right, and to receive God's blessing for all his good works" he wrote on the basilica.ro website.

Opponents say the new constitutional language could make LGBT people feel more like second-class citizens and could discriminate against non-traditional families. They also say the amendment is unnecessary since Romanian civil law already says that marriage is a union between a man and a woman.

In the village of Adunati-Copaceni, south of Bucharest, the capital, only 62 people had cast their vote by midmorning out of a total electorate of 1,147.

Priests leading worship at St. Mary's Church encouraged the congregation to vote. Retired farmer Ana Buturgianu, 69, said she'd heed that advice as did Andrei Aurelian, a 53-year-old cashier.

"The vote is for us and for our children. It's normal to have a man and a woman, not two men together," Aurelian said.

But Bucharest resident Marin Soare, 50, who was cycling through the village Sunday, was boycotting the vote, calling it "a waste of money."

"We already have traditional families in Romania and have done so for 2,000 years," he said. "And there's always been same-sex relationships."

Alex Hartan, 23, a hemophiliac who relies on an electric wheelchair, said he was opposed to legalizing same-sex marriages but thinks the traditional family is not under threat in Romania.

"I can't vote in any case, as I can't get into the polling station with my wheelchair," he noted.

(KA)