After recently being approved by the Central Election Commission and the country’s Prime Minister, Georgia’s President, Giorgi Margvelashvili, announced on Tuesday that a referendum adding a constitutional ban on marriage between people of the same-sex was not necessary and effectively blocked the effort.
For the referendum process to proceed, 200,000 signatures must be verified by the Central Electoral Commission and receive the blessing of both the President and Prime Minister within 30 days.
President Margvelashvili stressed that the Georgian Civil Code, which contains a heterosexual definition of marriage, serves as enough clarification on local marriage laws and labeled the constitutional debacle a “non-issue”.
Although the Civil Code specifies that marriages are between men and women, Georgia’s existing constitution is gender-neutral on the subject and the referendum question brought before voters would have asked the following:
Do you agree or disagree that marriage should be defined as a union of a man and a woman for the purpose of creating a family?
Conservative groups vow to hold protests and take the referendum matter to the Georgian Constitutional Court.
The issue of same-sex marriage has come under the spotlight in Georgia following a lawsuit to legalize same-sex marriage being filed before the Constitutional Court earlier this year.
In response, forces both inside and outside of Parliament mulled an initiative to introduce a constitutional barrier on same-sex marriage, with Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili issuing a campaign promise for a ban coming directly through Parliament without holding a public vote. The Prime Minister’s hope is that coalition will be awarded a super majority in October’s general election.
Constitutional changes made through the Legislature require a threshold of 3/4 of Parliament, or 113 of the 150 members, in favor.
While not necessarily in agreement with extending marriage rights, several MPs voiced their doubts about the measure citing the same defense as the President regarding the Civil Code being sufficient and members of the opposition denounced the ban as a political ploy from the ruling party. Accusations of “Russian propaganda” meant to stir anti-Western and anti-EU sentiments were also expressed by some lawmakers. The chances of the threshold being reached were questioned as well due to a previous proposal to add a ban failing in 2014.
For more information on the LGBT rights situation in Georgia, please visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT_rights_in_Georgia_(country)