Metro Weekly

Romania Could Pass Russian-Style Anti-Gay “Propaganda” Law

Bill restricting minors’ access to LGBTQ information headed for parliamentary vote later this year.

Romanian Flag – Photo: Dan Nevill, flickr

The Romanian Senate recently passed a bill that would classify the dissemination of LGBTQ-related information as “propaganda,” following the lead of Russia and Hungary and continuing a trend of attacking civil liberties that appears to be embraced by conservative elites in former Eastern bloc countries.

The proposed law would prohibit exposing minors to any sort of content related to LGBTQ identities or sexual and gender diversity – particularly in educational settings.

The law would also freeze the legal gender of minors, preventing trans youth from changing their legal names or assigned sex at birth on identity documents, and from having their gender identity acknowledged by the government.

The law mirrors similar legislation passed by Russia in 2013 and neighboring Hungary last year, under the guise of “protecting” children from information about homosexuality or gender identity, even from a neutral or scientific perspective.

Information about sex education or reproductive freedom would also be prohibited under the law, due to fears that providing information will “encourage” minors to adopt LGBTQ identities.

This is not the first time that clashes over LGBTQ rights and visibility have played out in the socially conservative Eastern European nation, which only decriminalized homosexuality in 2001, much later than even other Eastern bloc nations.

In 2020, Romanian lawmakers approved an amendment to the country’s education law that bans gender identity studies. Romania is also one of few European Union states that still bans same-sex marriage and civil partnerships.

Passage of the proposed bill by the Romanian Senate comes as Hungary faces a European Union lawsuit over its own anti-LGBTQ “propaganda” law.

The European Commission, the governing body of the EU, has “decided to refer Hungary to the Court of Justice of the EU” over the law, arguing that the law discriminates against people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The party that proposed this legislation, the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), represents ethnic Hungarians in the country. UDMR controls nine seats in the Romanian Senate and 20 in the Chamber of Deputies, accounting for approximately six percent of the seats of the legislative branch in the country’s multi-party system.

But human rights advocates worry that the proposed bill – which plays on homophobic tropes conflating LGBTQ people with predators and pedophiles – may enjoy wider support among other parties in Parliament and in the larger society overall.

Capital city Bucharest saw thousands marching in a Pride parade last month – the largest in the country’s history. LGBTQ rights organizations across Europe and in Romania have expressed opposition to the proposed law, including ACCEPT, a nongovernmental organization supporting LGBTQ rights in Romania, which is the chief sponsor of Bucharest Pride.

Members of the European Parliament have also spoken out against the proposed legislation. The organization’s LGBTI intergroup, consisting of over 150 MEPs, wrote a letter to Romanian leaders in June urging them to “unequivocally strike down this law.” In the letter, the MEPs point out the relationship between the Romanian bill and Hungarian law and question whether the bill would withstand a legal challenge in the Court of Human Rights.

The bill is expected to be voted upon by the Romanian Chamber of Deputies, the lower chamber of the Romanian Parliament, sometime later this year. If approved, the bill would move on to President Klaus Iohannis for his signature into law. Iohannis has previously called for “tolerance and acceptance” for same-sex couples.

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