Last edited: February 14, 2005

Romanian Law Reform Protested

PlanetOut, July 11, 2000

A bill to decriminalize consensual homosexual acts was protested by some 2,500 Christian demonstrators in the Romanian town of Arad on July 9, according to the Associated Press. The two-hour march with national and religious flags, black ribbons, and banners reading "No to homosexuality" and "Jesus is the truth" was peaceful. Catholics and Baptists reportedly joined Romanian Orthodox Church members, who comprise more than 80% of the population.

The bill was overwhelmingly passed by the Chamber of Deputies in late June but has yet to be approved by the Senate or the President. It represents Romania’s latest attempt to meet European standards of equal treatment in hopes of gaining membership in the European Union; if the nation has not achieved decriminalization and other human rights targets by August 4, the Council of Europe will renew its supervision of Romania. Although the current bill removes specific references to gays from the penal code, it still punishes "perverted sexual acts" in public with up to five years’ imprisonment, compared to two years for public heterosexual acts.

"Perverted sexual acts" are defined in the bill as "abnormal sexual practices including oral and anal sex" and "any unnatural acts in connection with sexual life," but the Romanian gay and lesbian activist group ACCEPT (The Bucharest Acceptance Group) complains that this language is vague and fears that same-gender couples may be arrested for holding hands or kissing. The last effort at sodomy law reform in Romania’s seven-year struggle between its European aspirations and its powerful religious traditions left a gaping loophole for any actions that offend another person. That provision resulted in police harassment and extortion of gays as well as incarcerations.

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