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Georgia’s parliamentary speaker says marriage definition to ‘reduce homophobia’

9 June 2017
Irakli Kobakhidze (parliament.ge)

Georgia’s parliamentary speaker has claimed that a recent initiative to define marriage as a union between a woman and a man ‘will reduce homophobia’. Georgia’s current constitution reads that ‘marriage shall be based upon equality of rights and free will of spouses’, without specifying the gender of the spouses.

Georgia’s government is implementing sweeping changes to the country’s constitution and are now discussing the amendments in parliament. One of the major change will defining marriage as a ‘voluntary union of men and women’.

Irakli Kobakhidze, the speaker of Parliament, made the comments during a session of the Human Rights Committee on 8 June. He said that the parliamentary majority agrees on the amendment and that its main goal is to prevent ‘certain groups of people from inciting homophobic and anti-western attitudes’.

‘Our sincere goal is to protect the rights of each person and to foster the spirit of tolerance in society’, Kobakhidze remarked.

The government has been discussing constitutional amendments to outlaw same-sex marriage for several years; this despite same-sex marriage already being expressly forbidden under Georgian law.

Kobakhidze believes that homophobia in the country ‘is not grave’.

The draft constitutional amendments have been sent to the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe, for discussion. The commission has already prepared recommendations.

According to Netgazeti, the Venice Commission recommends that the new definition of marriage not be formulated in a way as to ban same-sex couples of any kind of official partnership.

‘Georgia, as a member of the Council of Europe, is obliged to follow of the European Court and provide legal recognition (including civil partnership or registered partnership for same-sex couples)’, Netgazeti quotes the document.

Georgian rights groups have opposed the amendment, saying that it will only strengthen homophobic attitudes in Georgia. A group of NGOs urged the government to add that other forms of co-living can be regulated by law to the amendment, but the constitutional commission, which drafted the amendments, rejected this.

Several months after a mob of tens of thousands of enraged people violently attacked a couple of dozen people marking International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia on 17 May 2013, the leader of the Christian Democratic Movement began to collect signatures in support of banning same-sex marriage in Georgia’s constitution.

The amendment became one of the ruling Georgian Dream party’s major election promises in its 2012 campaign. Georgian rights organisations and queer communities have never undertaken a serious campaign for marriage equality in the country.

Former Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvli first suggested the amendments to ‘better formulate marriage’ in 2014. He argued that there is similar legislation in many EU states, like Croatia and Latvia.

Despite Georgian legislation already defining marriage as the union of man and woman, Gharibashvili argued that it was necessary to ‘avoid incorrect interpretation’ and amend the constitution as well.

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