Referendum Bid to ‘Define Marriage’ Moves Ahead
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 2 Aug.'16 / 17:04

A group pushing for a referendum on defining marriage as union of a man and a woman – something that is already specified in the Georgian legislation – took a step closer to its goal after collecting over 200,000 signatures of citizens and now it’s up to the President, and partly also on PM, whether such referendum will be called.

Among the members of the initiative group behind the referendum proposal is Sandro Bregadze, who was a deputy state minister for diaspora issues before resigning in February, 2016; the rights groups had been calling for his dismissal while he was holding the post because of his homophobic remarks. Bregadze is now with a new political party, which was launched by MP Tamaz Mechiauri, who is also no stranger to making homophobic slurs and who quit the ruling GDDG party in late May after voicing anti-Western sentiments and criticizing government’s declared policy of NATO integration.

At a session on July 30 the Central Election Commission (CEC) validated authenticity of 200,348 signatures out of total 224,000, submitted by the group (200,000 was the required minimum) on July 27.

CEC sent the petition to the President on August 1, CEC spokesperson, Anna Mikeladze, told on Tuesday.

President Giorgi Margvelashvili has 30 days to decide whether to call the referendum.

If the President decides positively, according to the law on referendum, his decree on holding the referendum will then require approval, or as it is formally called “countersignature”, from Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili, who is also chairman of the ruling GDDG party.

In late May the Parliament discussed with its first reading a draft of constitutional amendment, proposed by the ruling GDDG party, defining marriage as union of a man and a woman.
But because of lack of required quorum, the constitutional bill has not been put on vote. 

Any constitutional amendment requires support of at least 113 MPs and a vote cannot be held unless this number of minimum required lawmakers is present in the chamber. Lawmakers from UNM, the largest opposition group in the legislative body, were absent as they were boycotting parliamentary sittings due to the Kortskheli violent incident.

During the discussions of the constitutional bill on May 27, lawmakers from the GDDG ruling party did not rule out initiating a referendum on the issue in case of failure by the Parliament to adopt the proposed constitutional amendment.

President Margvelashvili said in May that the proposal to define marriage as union of a man and a woman in the constitution “is not an issue” at all in Georgia; he said that it was an attempt “to stir a storm in a teacup”; he also said that the proposal was floated for the purpose of diverting public attention from real problems in the country.

The proposed question for a possible referendum – “Do you agree that civil marriage should be defined as the union of a man and a woman for the purpose of starting a family?” – does not specify how the issue can be further “defined” as Georgia’s civil code in fact already specifies that marriage is a “voluntary union of a man and a woman”, effectively banning same-sex marriage.

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