The county clerk who was jailed for refusing to give marriage licenses to same-sex couples has taken her battle against gay rights to Europe: Kim Davis is fighting same-sex marriage in Romania, according to NPR, embarking on a nine-day tour of the former communist country to promote a Constitutional amendment that would explicitly ban gay people from getting married.
Davis's activism is curious, because gay people already can't get married in Romania. The country's civil code defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and even civil unions between same-sex couples aren't legal. Nevertheless, conservative activists in the country are pushing a referendum that would criminalize same-sex marriage at the Constitutional level, and Davis and Liberty Counsel, the Christian legal group that's supported her in the past, are joining that fight.
Davis rose to prominence in 2015 when, as the county clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples despite the Supreme Court legalizing marriage equality months earlier. She was ultimately jailed for contempt of court after defying a federal court order to issue licenses to gay couples. Amidst all of this, she was praised by social conservatives for her defiance of the law, with Sen. Ted Cruz accusing the courts of "judicial tyranny" for attempting to enforce equal marriage rights.
Davis has been accompanied on her trip to Romania by Harry Mihet, a lawyer with the Liberty Counsel and native-born Romanian. In a statement, Mihet compared gay marriage to communist tyrant Nicolae Ceauseșcu, who ruled the country with an iron fist for over two decades before being executed by his own soldiers. Mihet suggested that legalizing gay marriage in Romania would be an "injustice" on the level of Ceaușescu's dictatorship, which plunged the country into financial ruin and ended with government forces shooting hundreds of protesters dead in the streets.
"Her story resonates loudly with [Romanians], and they are receiving her tearfully and very warmly, because they can still remember the not-so-long-ago days when they were themselves persecuted and imprisoned for their conscience," Mihet said in a statement. "The freedom of conscience transcends national, cultural, religious and denominational lines, and Romanians are determined to prevent such injustice from ever happening again in their country."
A coalition of over 40 conservative groups in Romania, including the powerful Orthodox Church, have spent years pushing for a Constitutional amendment that would define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The movement's leaders claimed in 2015 to have collected three million signatures in support of a referendum; the matter is currently being debated by parliament, and a vote on on the question could come as soon as November.
“We have the constitutional right and moral obligation to defend the family from those tendencies of modern society which diminish its importance and accelerate its degradation,” reads the website of Coalition for the Family, the umbrella group behind the effort.
Davis and Mihet are "holding conferences in Romania's largest cities, including Bucharest, Cluj, Sibiu, Timisoara and Iasi," the Liberty Counsel said in a press release Tuesday, and have already met with "two Archbishops of the Orthodox Church." In an interview with a Romanian newspaper, Davis pointed out that "if the family was defined in the [U.S.] Constitution as a union between a man and a woman, I would not have spent six days in prison."
Same-sex marriage is currently legal in 25* countries, or roughly 12 percent of nations. Almost all of those countries are either in Western Europe or the Americas, though South Africa, Taiwan and New Zealand are exceptions to this. Not a single country in Eastern Europe, Central Europe, Asia or the Middle East offers equal marriage rights to same-sex couples.
*24 countries have legalized gay marriage outright, while Mexico offers equal marriage rights in some but not all jurisdictions