Amendments to Armenia’s constitution put forward by President Serzh Sarkisian’s administration explicitly ban same-sex couples from marrying in the country, a senior official in Yerevan insisted on Friday.
“In Armenia, the family is a union of one woman and one man,” Hrayr Tovmasian, a member of the presidential commission that has drafted a long list of constitutional changes, said during parliamentary hearings.
The draft amendments not only provide for Armenia’s transition to the parliamentary system of government but also contain many clauses clarifying various aspects of governance. In particular, one of them stipulates that a man and a woman who have reached the minimum legal age for marriage are free to “marry one another and form a family.”
A corresponding article of the current constitution does not contain the phrase “one another,” suggesting that it was added to Sarkisian’s constitutional package with the aim of making same-sex marriage illegal.
Another draft amendment refers to the family as “the natural and main unit of the society” and “the basis for maintaining and multiplying the population.” Accordingly, it commits the Armenian state to giving families “special protection and patronage.”
The Council of Europe’s Venice Commission effectively voiced concerns over these provisions in an extensive written evaluation of the proposed package which was made public a month ago. It said that they must not be interpreted as a “legal obstacle” to eventually legalizing same-sex marriage in Armenia.
Tovmasian made clear, however, that the Armenian authorities remain adamant in putting in place such obstacles. “Under this [proposed] constitution, if a same-sex marriage is ever registered in Armenia, it will be unconstitutional,” he said, adding that “same-sex couples cannot be deemed families.”
Sarkisian reportedly made similar assurances on Thursday when he met with a group of pro-establishment lawmakers to discuss his constitutional reform effort. According to one of them, Aragats Akhoyan, the president made clear that “only a man and a woman will have the right create a family in the Republic of Armenia.”
This stance is certain to be backed by the vast majority of people in the socially conservative Christian country where hostility toward sexual minorities remains widespread.