Thousands march in Bucharest Pride to demand 'the very basics' for LGBTQ Romanians

It's been 20 years since Romania fully decriminalised same-sex sexual activity, but little legal progress has been made since.


Words: Alastair James; pictures: Pexels

Around 8,000 people marched in Bucharest’s Pride at the weekend, with attendees calling for “the very basics” of LGBTQ rights.

Romania's annual Pride event in the capital was cancelled last year due to the pandemic and this year’s demonstration marked 20 years since homosexuality was fully decriminalised in formerly communist country.

It comes as lawmakers from nationalist and right-wing parties threaten to seek to put forward legislation for a Hungarian-style ban on LGBTQ 'propaganda' in schools.

“It’s about loving your children for who they are”

Speaking to the Associated Press, Teodora Ion-Rotaru, the executive director of LGBTQ rights group ACCEPT Association said Saturday event, which has been running since 2004, “remains a protest that asks for the very basics.”

She says state protections don’t go far enough despite the country being a member of the EU, which means it can’t allow discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“The march asks for protection from violence, protection from discrimination, protection from being fired for your sexual orientation or gender identity,” Ion-Rotaru added.

25-year-old Luca Istodor told AP that after coming out at aged 16 it took some time for his parents to fully accept his sexuality, which they had now done. They spoke at the event, which Istodor says would be heard by other parents.

“It’s about loving your children for who they are,” he said.

Reuters reports police are fining the event’s organisers for exceeding the number of people allowed to be in attendance, which is being challenged.

Romania decriminalised same-sexs sexual activity in 1996, but 25 years on legal recognition of same-sex partnerships such as civil unions or marriage remains banned, as does same-sex adoption. 

Meanwhile, lawmakers from two different parties - the junior ruling coalition ethnic Hungarian party UDMR and the opposition ultra-nationalist Alliance for Uniting Romanians (AUR) – have said they want to ban what they call gay 'propaganda' in schools.

A 2019 opinion poll by Eurobarometer found that 38% of Romanians agree that gay, lesbian, and bisexual people should have the same rights as heterosexuals, while 54% disagreed. 

However, a report from the ACCEPT Association in April, suggests an upward trend in views regarding LGBTQ relationships, with 68% of Romanians agreeing that all families should be protected by law. 75% of Romanians said it was important to be treated with respect and to treat others with respect, including LGBTQ people.

Teodora Ion-Rotaru says this kind of information shows, “public opinion in Romania is changing rapidly and significantly for the better, in the direction of accepting equal rights for families in our community.

“Moreover, we see growing support for same-sex marriage, especially among young adults, who were born and lived free. They view equality before the law as essential, and apply the same principles to LGBTI couples.”

In 2018, a referendum to ban same-sex marriage in Romania failed after it didn’t draw enough voters.

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