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President: Proposed Constitutional Bar to Same-Sex Marriage is ‘Storm in Teacup’

A constitutional bill, proposed by the Georgian Dream, to define marriage as union of a man and a woman “is not an issue” at all in Georgia and it was floated for the purpose of diverting public attention from real problems in the country, President Giorgi Margvelashvili said on May 10.
 
“I believe this is an invented issue,” he said. “Why do we stir a storm in a teacup? Answer is simple: in order not to talk about jobs; in order not to talk about education; in order not to talk about culture; in order not to talk about occupied [territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia].”

“Position about marriage is already defined – same-sax marriage is unacceptable for 99.9 per cent of Georgia’s population; it is defined in the Georgian legislation; there is a consensus in the Parliament – so why speak about it when some are hungry and there is a [problem] of occupation? You should not be provoked by a politician who tells you that this is an important issue… There are thousands things, which are more important,” he said while meeting pupils in one of Tbilisi’s public schools when asked if he supports the same-sex marriage.

Proposal to introduce the constitutional amendment was first voiced by then PM Irakli Garibashvili in March 2014 and refloated by current PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili in early March, 2016. The constitutional amendment was initiated by 80 lawmakers – most of them MPs from the GD parliamentary majority group, as well 7 out of the Free Democrats opposition party’s 8 lawmakers. The Republican Party, a member of the GD ruling coalition, “distanced” itself from the process of initiating of the proposal, but two of its lawmakers put signatures on initiation of the bill.

The bill was discussed and backed by the parliamentary committee for human rights on May 5. During the hearing a co-sponsor of the bill, MP from GD majority group Zviad Dzidziguri of the Conservative Party, was citing the need to “strengthen families” and “children’s rights” when speaking about the arguments in favor of the proposal.

“We have a grave demographic situation in Georgia,” he said “This amendment is very important because we have to take care of our children and I believe that it is the right of children to have female mother and male father.”

Rights groups say the initiative is a “populist” move ahead of the parliamentary elections aimed at winning support of Georgia’s predominantly conservative society. Rights activists, who were present at the parliamentary committee hearing, were telling lawmakers that the initiative was further marginalizing LGBT community and causing further rise in homophobic sentiments in the country. Gay rights activists also say that right to same-sex marriage has never been high on their agenda in the country, where LGBT people face much more pressing problems such as violence, physical, psychological and verbal abuse.

Article 36 of the Georgian constitution currently reads: “Marriage shall be based upon equality of rights and free will of spouses.”
 
Proposal to amend the constitution offers the following wording: “Marriage, which is a voluntary union of a woman and a man with the purpose of creating a family, shall be based on equal rights of spouses.”
 
Georgia’s civil code already specifies that marriage is a “voluntary union of man and woman”, effectively banning same-sex marriage.
 
Any constitutional amendment requires support of at least 113 MPs in 150-seat Parliament. The amendment has to be passed with three readings, which cannot be held during the one plenary session cycle – if the amendment is approved with first and second hearing during a spring session of the parliament, the final vote should be held during autumn session, no earlier than three months from the first two votes.

This post is also available in: Georgian Russian

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