Romanian law-makers should reject a change to the Family Code that would narrow the definition of marriage to one exclusively between a man and woman, Human Rights Watch said in a letter sent on Thursday to government officials.

The measure would deprive many Romanian families of basic civil rights and introduce inequality into law, said the organisation.

“There is no excuse for playing politics with families’ welfare,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.

“These proposals not only deliberately discriminate against same- sex couples but threaten their families, including children. It is an insult to Romania’s achievements elsewhere in overcoming discrimination.”

Article 1 (3) of Romania’s existing Family Code states simply, in gender-neutral terms, that family is “based on marriage between spouses.” On February 4, the Senate’s Judiciary Committee debated a package of amendments designed to restrict the code so as to expressly ban marriage between same-sex partners.

Principal sponsors of the amendments are the ultra-nationalist Greater Romanian Party and its leader, former presidential candidate Corneliu Vadim Tudor.

At the committee session, Senator Serban Nicolae of the Social Democratic Party proposed a single, all-inclusive amendment changing Article 1 (3) to state that: “The marriage between a man and a woman is the basis of the family.” The committee adopted this unanimously. The amendment now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

After 10 years of advocacy by domestic human rights groups and international supporters, Romania finally repealed its Ceausescu-era law against homosexual conduct in 2001. It has since passed legislation that prohibits sexual-orientation-based discrimination in employment and public services.

“European law and policy increasingly recognises and protects the diversity of family forms,” said Dittrich. “Romania’s lawmakers should do likewise.”

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