The Armenian parliament on Tuesday refused even to put on its agenda a bill seeking to expressly outlaw same-sex marriages in the country.
The initiative by an opposition faction has sparked a debate among parliament members, with the majority lawmakers dismissing such a draft law as superfluous.
Initiated by the Prosperous Armenia Party (BHK), the bill has already been assessed negatively by the government and the parliament’s standing committee on state and legal affairs.
This attitude towards the bill has angered its co-author Gevork Petrosian, who is known to be strongly opposed to LGBT rights in Armenia.
“Let’s simply put into the Family Code a provision expressly banning same-sex and transgender marriages,” Petrosian suggested, addressing his fellow lawmakers on Tuesday.
Another initiative of Petrosian to add a provision in the Family Code banning adoption by homosexuals has also been assessed negatively.
The BHK lawmaker described his proposal as a matter of national security and raised a rhetorical question: “Now would those voting against this initiative want to see this happen in their families?”
This remark angered Parliament Speaker Ararat Mirzoyan, who asked Petrosian not to “personalize” the issue. “You are going beyond all limits,” Mirzoyan warned.
Eventually, as a result of the vote the bill advocated by Petrosian was not included in the agenda of the National Assembly.
Members of the pro-government My Step faction said that Armenia’s current legislation regulates all the issues raised by the opposition lawmaker and that there is no need for any additional barriers.
“Don’t try to be more Catholic than the Pope,” My Step’s Alen Simonian said, suggesting that the BHK is simply using the issue to “make a scandal.”
The gay marriage debate in the Armenian parliament comes amid concerns expressed by conservative groups in Armenia about a possible ratification of a Council of Europe convention that they claim will pave the way for same-sex marriages.
The treaty signed in 2011 and known as the Istanbul Convention commits Council of Europe member states to combating violence against women. Armenia has still not ratified it despite being among its signatories.
While supporting the protection of women, opponents object to the Istanbul Convention’s definition of gender as “social roles, behaviors, activities and characteristics that a particular society considers appropriate for women and men.” They say this paves the way for introducing transsexual or transgender as separate categories and legalizing gay marriages.
Top clergymen of the Armenian Apostolic Church have also spoken against the ratification of the Convention.
Meanwhile, government officials have sought to allay the concerns of the groups championing family values by arguing that the convention does not legalize same-sex marriages and that Armenia’s constitution defines marriage as a union between “a man and a woman.”
Still, the outcry appears to have forced the authorities in Yerevan to at least delay the ratification until next year. In late August, they asked a Council of Europe body, the Venice Commission, for an advisory opinion on the conformity of the Istanbul Convention with Armenia’s constitution. The commission is understood to strongly support its ratification.