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PM Vows to Renew Push for Defining Marriage in Constitution After Elections

PM Giorgi Kvirikashvili, who also chairs ruling GDDG party, reiterated on August 24 that after the October 8 elections, his party will renew push for its proposal to define marriage in the constitution as union of a man and woman.

The PM made the remarks at a government session on August 24 while discussing giving approval – or as it is formally called PM’s “countersignature”, to President Giorgi Margvelashvili’s decision rejecting holding a referendum on defining marriage as union of a man and a woman.

PM Kvirikashvili said that although he disagrees with one of the arguments cited by the President in his rejection of the referendum, he would countersign the decree because holding of the referendum on this issue was anyway impossible because of legislative “shortcoming.”

The law obligates the legislative and executive government to implement result of a binding referendum within one month, while process of constitutional amendment – even if approved by the Parliament – takes more than three months.

When announcing his decision rejecting referendum proposal on August 9, President Margvelashvili cited, among other arguments, the Georgian legislation which says that the binding referendum should be held on the entire territory of Georgia.

“I think the argument that no referendum cannot be held because country’s territorial integrity is violated is disputable; we think that’s not the case,” PM Kvirikashvili said.

“We of course fully share desire of initiators of this referendum to have in the constitution the same clause, which is now in the civil code, saying that marriage is a voluntary union of a man and a woman for the purpose of starting a family. It was our political force [GDDG ruling party], which initiated these constitutional amendments in the Parliament,” he said.

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 the constitutional bill has not been put on vote because of lack of required quorum.

“As soon as elections are over we will definitely implement this constitutional amendment and this clause will be reflected in the constitution,” he said. “Unfortunately it was not possible to finalize this amendment in the outgoing parliament because of boycott of [parliamentary sessions] by some political forces and because of various reasons. We hope that as soon as elections are over we will pass this amendment.”

Support of at least 113 MPs in the 150-seat Parliament is required for any constitutional amendment to be passed.

“I also want to say that speculation as if the West means legalization of same-sex marriages is a pure speculation. The Georgian Dream [party] is a political force which combines Western values and our country’s traditional values and precisely such Georgia is valuable for Europe, which respects traditional values. So after the elections we will definitely pass this constitutional amendment,” PM Kvirikashvili said.

Speaking after the government session on August 24, Foreign Minister, Mikheil Janelidze, said that introduction of constitutional amendment defining marriage as union between a man and a woman would help to counter the anti-Western propaganda by depriving this narrative of its false argument as if the West tries to impose same-sex marriage on Georgia.
 
Among the members of the initiative group behind the referendum proposal was Sandro Bregadze, who was 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.

The proposed question for the referendum was: “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?” The question did not specify how the issue should have been further “defined” as Georgia’s civil code in fact already specifies that marriage is a “voluntary union of a man and a woman”.

Initially the same initiative group was proposing more specific question, asking voters if they wanted the marriage to be defined as union of a man and a woman in the Constitution.

But such wording was declined by the Central Election Commission as holding of a binding referendum on an issue obligating the Parliament to change the Constitution could have been considered as violation of law on referendum.

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