by Peter Costea, attorney, Houston/Texas, US
For the foes of Romania’s marriage amendment, this initiative is another bump in the road, although a major one.
I promised to occasionally return with relevant updates on the citizens’ initiative to amend Article 48 of Romania’s Constitution and provide for the natural meaning and definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Since my last posting of only a few weeks ago Romania’s proposed marriage amendment has received a lot of attention, some good but mostly bad.
The amendment has friends and foes. The foes have been more vociferous. It inflamed the passions of Europe’s left and has rallied against it the Western media, extremist members of the European Parliament, and various NGOs. The sudden and vociferous campaign can only be qualified as the start of what I expect to be psychological warfare against the overwhelming majority of Romania’s population which insists that marriage in their country remain as nature has designed it – a man and a woman. The abrupt interest in the marriage amendment was precipitated by its approval, with a vote of 232 to 22, by Romania’s Chamber of Deputies on May 9, 2017. The approval sent shock waves throughout the European Union and its leaders are beginning to pay close attention. Concerned that the referendum might, after all, take place, or even worse, succeed, Europe’s elites are doing their best to ensure its defeat.
The first public opposition to the amendment of which I am aware, and about which I already posted a commentary in February, came about in February of this year when 37 members of the United States Congress, all Democrats, submitted a letter to Romania’s Government and all political parties requesting, sternly, that the initiative be blocked and the „referendum not be allowed to proceeded.” Most of the West’s fury, however, began to unleash immediately after the Chamber of Deputies approved the amendment on May 9.
The European Parliament
Following in the footsteps of their American colleagues, on May 17, 2017, 28 Members of the European Parliament („MEPs”) tendered an Open Letter to the Romanian Government and Romania’s major political parties, urging them „to not support the proposed referendum on the definition of the family.” The Open Letter can be read here.
Their letter is bizarre. But before I address it below, it is important to know who some of the 28 MEPs are. Collectively, they represent the most extreme, eccentric, and antidemocratic fringe of the European Parliament. The list contains the who’s who of the European Parliament’s most bizarre members. Some of them promote views that cause concern and border on the irrational. They not only support abortion rights to an extreme, but also the most radical rights imaginable for members of what they call „sexual minorities.”
The fist name that strikes the eye is Ulrike Lunacek, whose name tops the list. An Austrian and a member of the European Parliament’s Greens Group, she is the author of proposed European Parliament resolutions which promote anti-family views. She gained notoriety on October 14, 2013 when she authored a Motion for a Resolution, urging the European Parliament to adopt its mostly anti-family positions.
Another radical MEP who signed the anti-Romanian marriage amendment letter is Sophie in ‘t Veld. I had the opportunity to personally view Ms. in ‘t Veld in action in 2009. Her anti-family, anti-Christian bigoted views became obvious as soon as she started to address an audience at the European Parliament. During the open forum she angrily disrespected the media representative of a pro-family organization who attended the conference. Her disdain for pro-family groups is well known.
Not only is she anti-family and anti-Christian, but also anti-democratic. Irritated by the resurgence of conservative politics in Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia, in 2015 she recommended the European Union create a supervisory body to monitor „anti-democratic” politicians, politics, and civic organizations in the European Union. According to her vision, the supervisory board would have the authority to recommend discipline against state-members of the European Union which, in the opinion of the supervisory board, do not conform to the board’s expectations of what a genuine democracy is. The board would consist of appointed, unelected „experts” authorized to suggest punitive actions against disloyal members of the European Union. Ms. in ‘t Veld was also behind the group of MEPs which last year pushed for formal censorship of MEPs’ speeches which could be construed to be hateful, discriminatory or contrary to „European values.”
Given the peculiar views held by the MEPs which signed the May 17, 2017 letter, it is no wonder that its content and concepts are so radical and off the grid. In addition to its glacial tone, the letter is a garbled mix of poorly structured concepts. For instance, the MEPs opined that the proposed marriage amendment would „incite discrimination against families in their various forms,” claiming that such discrimination „already exists in Romanian society.” Keep in mind that this comment comes from Western MEPs in whose countries Christians are marginalized and discriminated against daily as a matter of state policy. The MEPs characterized the amendment as a subterfuge for discrimination and divisiveness, and as being incompatible with Europe’s commitment to human rights.
European Association for the Defense of Human Rights
The European Association for the Defense of Human Rights, known by its acronym „AEDH,” joined the fray twelve (12) days later, on May 29, 2017, when it ratcheted up Western attacks on the marriage amendment in a press release. AEDH claims to follow „with great concern the violations of civil and political rights in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.” It says it is disturbed by recent trends there and, particularly, in Romania, where an „increasing number” of „well-organized groups erode the democratic foundations of the societies.” The AEDH’s media release virulently attacks the Coalition for the Family which is behind the marriage amendment, alleging that „its supporters rally on hate speech against LGBT and feminist groups, and against all people and entities that support civil and political rights, fundamental principles such as equality, the rule of law and the European values.” The press release additionally comments, without explaining, that „Romania is already one of the countries in the EU with worst records (sic!) on violence against LGBT people.” Worse, it claims the „referendum is a catalyst for radical religious and ultra conservative groups against minorities and women but also defying human rights and instilling mistrust of rationality and scientific knowledge, the foundation of modern and democratic society.”
AEDH calls for action „at European level to limit the effects of ultraconservative religious militants” in Romania and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Its press release culminates with the alarmist claim that Romania’s marriage amendment puts „the European project … at crossroads.” You can read the press release here.
So, there you have it. Europe’s extremist voices, couched in the language of human rights and alleged concern for democracy, attack 3 million responsible citizens who launched the constitutional amendment. According to these sinister voices, Romania is home to at least 3 million bigots, narrow minded individuals, extremists, religious fanatics, militants, ultra-religious and ultraconservative adults who are eroding the foundations of Europe, its commitment to human rights, and are pushing Europe toward collapse. Really?
A Few Observations
The threatening notes addressed to Romania’s political parties and public fall short in several respects. First, the lecturing in civics coming from Europe’s fringe does not help and is counterproductive. The notes are highly inappropriate and read more into what is actually taken place than is warranted. The bother is not that prominent personalities and organizations outside of Romania express positions on a matter of internal concern to the people of Romania. It is that their authors have a hidden agenda of their own and are using the Romanian marriage amendment to promote it. The agenda is the radical secularization of the European Union with all of its consequences.
To their disappointment, Romanians have not embraced secularism, have not cast off Christianity, but have remained very traditional and committed to their Christian roots and faith in spite of 45 years of communism and forced atheism. A major resurgence of faith and religiousness has been underway in Eastern Europe for many years as shown by a major, 176-page Report published in May by Pew Research Center in the United States. Details. This resurgence of faith is at loggerheads with Western Europe’s grand secularization project, a project it seeks to extend and enforce on all citizens of the European Union, whether willing or unwilling, and on all member states. Seen from their perspective, Romania’s marriage amendment is another bump in the road, although a major one.
Second, the written commentaries evidence the MEPs’ fear and distrust of democracy, citizens, and of the democratic process. This is serious because a persistent criticism of the European Union is its severe democratic deficit. The notes go a long way to support this criticism. In recent years much ink has been spilled over „populism” as a threat to democracy, both in Europe and the United States. Romania’s proposed marriage amendment is viewed by Europe’s secularists from a populist angle. Erroneously, though.
Romania’s marriage amendment is not an exercise in populism, originated in 2006 well before populism became fashionable, is not a populist project, and was never intended to be one. From the beginning it was an exercise in democracy, conceived out of concerns for the welfare of the oldest institution in human history, marriage and the family, the institution which brought about the Romanian nation and without which it will cease to exist. History has not been particularly kind to Romanians. For most of their history they have been ruled by others but they never ruled over anyone. In spite of the hardships which history imposed on them they survived precisely because of their faith in God and their strong family ties. It would be highly unrealistic to expect that efforts by the European Union to force them to secularize and abandon faith in God and loyalty to the natural family would go unchallenged. The citizens’ initiative is an exercise in common sense, in survival. One must also consider Romania’s severe demographic decline which is threatening its very existence. It would seem unwise, from their perspective, to undermine the only social institution which can rectify this serious problem: the natural family and marriage.
Third, Europe’s politicians should view the citizen’s initiative not with suspicion or as a threat to democracy or human rights but as a healthy expression of the maturing Romanian democracy. They seem annoyed by citizens exercising their constitutional rights in a democratic manner. The threatening notes have a chilling effect on the democratic process. Romania’s democracy is very young. In December it will turn 28. In initiating the constitutional amendment Romania’s citizens exercised their constitutional rights in a democratic way. Just like the people of Ireland in May 2015, and millions of American citizens for ten (10) years between 2005 and 2015 when they initiated marriage amendments of their own and defined natural marriage in the constitutions of their own states.
Are Romania’s citizens second class citizens of the European Union? Romania’s Constitution offers citizens a mechanism to initiate constitutional amendments, just like the constitutions of most countries. Romania’s citizens took advantage of this mechanism and followed its requirements to the letter. The fact that Europe’s fringe politicians and NGOs disagree with the anticipated outcome of the referendum does not give them the right or authority to try to block it. Nor to malign the people of Romania or of Eastern Europe and label them in all sorts of demeaning and inappropriate ways.
Fourth, it is high time for politicians to get used to listen to the voice of citizens even if they do not like what they hear. To learn to live with the lawfully enacted decisions made by citizens. Citizens have long become used to live with the consequences of the politicians’ decisions, disastrous as they often are. It’s time politicians understand that’s the way a democracy works. On this point, one of secularism’s most influential voices has spoken forcefully and politicians would do well to hear his words again and heed them. John Rawls was one of the most influential political philosophers of the second half of the last century. He passed away in 2002 but has remained very influential to this day, mapping the road for the radical jurisprudential thinking which dominates the world of human rights today and which we see displayed in the human rights courts and rulings of the European Union and North America. In 1993 he published his very influential Political Liberalism. On page 137 he writes: „(O)ur exercise of political power is fully proper only when it is exercised in accordance with a constitution the essentials of which all citizens as free and equal may reasonably be expected to endorse in the light of principles and ideals acceptable to their common human reason.”
Rawls’ striking comments should be the ending point of the debate. Politicians only exercise political power with the consent of the citizens and are mandated to implement the principles and ideals, including institutions, which correspond to their common human reason. If the people of Ireland, in accordance with their „common human reason” decided to adopt a definition and vision for marriage which departs from its natural meaning, Romanians are likewise to be allowed to make their decision, democratically, without outside interference, and according to their „common human reason,” as to whether or not to keep or discard the natural meaning of marriage.