Yesterday, the Parliament of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) voted to constitutionally define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Furthermore, it created a constitutional hurdle to possible future legislation on same-sex civil unions.
The amendment defines that “[m]arriage shall be a life union solely of one woman and one man.” Furthermore, point two reads that “legal relations in marriage, family, and civil unions are to be regulated by a law adopted by a two-thirds majority of the total number of Members of Parliament.”
The amendment found a majority of 72-4, but still needs final confirmation through an additional parliamentary vote and presidential approval.
As a consequence, issues concerning family law will need the same majority as issues of territorial integrity, sovereignty, and the functioning of the State.
An earlier version of the draft Amendment, which explicitly banned same-sex civil unions or registered cohabitation was strongly criticized by the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe in constitutional affairs.
The Commission argued that if the Amendment would regulate other partnerships than marriage, it should ensure equality in terms of rights for same-sex and opposite-sex partnerships, in line with Article 8 (right to private and family life) and Article 14 (right to non-discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Tanja Fajon MEP, Vice-President of the Intergroup on LGBTI Rights, reacted: “Instead of taking the Opinion of the Venice Commission seriously, and guaranteeing equal rights for all couples, the government, supported by parliament, decided to create a constitutional obstacle to even create possible legislation on this issue in the future.”
“Rather than institutionalising discrimination against same sex couples, I call on the government to increase protection, in line with European standards.”
Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP, Vice-President of the Intergroup on LGBTI Rights, added: “In October last year, the LGBTI Support Centre in Skopje was attacked for the zillionth time. LGBTI people in Macedonia face severe stigma and are all too often faced with hate crime, to which authorities fail to react.”
“The Macedonian government should realise diversity is the source of prosperity and social stability, not an obstacle for it. Inversely, homophobia has never created a single job or indeed solved any other problem. Macedonia would be better served by following the trend of an increasing number of countries in Europe and the Americas where same-sex couples are legally recognised and protected.”
Note 21/01/2015, 14.35: The press release has been adapted to include information on the parliamentary procedure.