Georgian Pres Backs Marriage Bill, Refuses to Take Stance on Same-Sex Unions

TBILISI - Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili on Wednesday refused to weigh in on the highly contentious issue of same-sex marriages in the country, but supported a recent bill defining civil unions as between a man and woman.

At a question and answer session with Tbilisi public school students, Margvelashvili said the issue of homosexual unions is “not a topic of discussion” and any attempt to facilitate a national dialogue on the matter is only a ploy by politicians to divert public attention away from more pressing problems facing the country.

“More than 20 per cent of our land is under occupation by foreign military troops. Russian soldiers are stationed only 40 kilometers from Tbilisi. This is not an important enough issue that it needs to be discussed. It’s not of anyone's concern. Don’t let politicians manipulate the situation and make you believe that this is an important problem facing the country,” Margvelashvili said while answering questions about European values in Georgia.

Margvelashvili was quick to defend a new constitutional bill that defines marriage as a union between woman and man and said any controversy surrounding the law is meant as a smokescreen to cover other main problems that plague the country, including poverty, unemployment and corruption

“This issue makes me want to sit down and think about who I am and how my ancestors would have thought about this topic. Instead of thinking carefully about the issue, they (the opposition) are trying to force me into believing that being Georgian means having a discussion about the definition of marriage. We’ve already done that through a civil code that says marriage is a union between a woman and a man,” he said.

“99.9 per cent of Georgian population is in agreement regarding the definition of marriage. Georgian law and the Georgian Parliament have already reached an agreement on this…those speaking out about the issue of same-sex marriages is nothing but a “tempest in a teacup,” added Margvelashvili.

On May 5, a bill defining marriage as strictly heterosexual in nature was discussed and backed by the parliamentary committee for human rights. The session was attended by LGBT rights activists, but the bill passed despite significant vocal opposition from various sectors of society.

Members of the ruling Georgian Dream coalition have come out for the new law while the Republican Party, Free Democrats and United National Movement are opposed to the bill.

Same-sex marriage is already banned under Georgia’s civil code, which defines marriage as a voluntary union between a man and woman. The wording of the Georgian constitution, however, vaguely refers to the basis of marriage as the equality of rights and free will of two consenting adults.

An initiative to legally define marriage was originally proposed former Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili in March 2014, as part of an overall discussion regarding anti-discrimination laws.

Rights groups in Georgia have argued that despite the legalization of same-sex marriages, gay and lesbian couples would be unable to register their unions due to the country’s deeply conservative sexual and relationship mores.

By Tamar Svanidze
Edited by Nicholas Waller

11 May 2016 22:57