Vice Speaker of Parliament Manana Kobakhidze during Human Rights Committee session (parliament.ge)

Tbilisi, DFWatch – Amidst fierce debates, Georgian Parliament’s Human Rights Committee on Thursday almost unanimously (only one MP abstained, no one voted against) approved the bill of constitutional changes to define marriage as a voluntary union of a man and a woman.

The current constitution doesn’t define the sex of spouses.

The draft bill was submitted in parliament by 80 MPs. It is supported by the Georgian Dream and its allies except the Republican Party, as well as by opposition Free Democrats. Republican Party and United National Movement are against.

“We have to protect rights of children. In a world where there are societies protecting butterflies, lizards and ants, I deem we have to think more about future of our children, this is why this amendment is so important,” Zviad Dzidziguri, Vice Speaker of the Parliament and leader of the Conservative Party, said on a committee session.

He referred to the constitutions of Latvia and Croatia, saying these EU member states have the same definitions and spoke about the demography, stating the nation is on the edge of extinction.

The committee session was attended by LGBTI rights activists. Despite their resistance, the committee eventually approved the bill.

Beka Gabadadze, from NGO LGBT Georgia, told DFWatch committee meeting revealed that entire process was launched by the political parties to mobilize voters for the election, which is scheduled on October 8. He reminded that Georgian legislation already bans same-sex marriages.

“LGBT organizations and activist had never spoken about issue of [same-sex] marriage before. Then Tatishvili appeared from nowhere with his appeal and entire homophobic campaign launched about constitution amendments,” he said adding that political forces attempt to gain more votes for election with a homophobic agenda.

“I have a family which you may call non-traditional, but I think it is absolutely traditional. Considering legislative frames, lots of my rights are offended,” Koba Bitsadze from Association Temida said.

Irakli Chikovani, of the Free Democrats, said people shouldn’t perceive this decision as homophobic.

Before the draft law would reach the parliament, public meetings were held all around Georgia, which showed explicit support to the constitutional ban on the gay marriages, proponents of the bill argue.

However, Beka Gabadadze told DFWatch that meetings were held at cinema-clubs, museums, other places attended by mostly party activists and leaders.

“In such places, especially in the countryside, LGBT citizens wouldn’t be able to express opinion [about the bill]. No one had asked for our opinion,” Gabadadze said, adding that LGBT community is afraid to reveal their identity publicly as they may become target of violence.

“I guess it wouldn’t have been right to ask at those meetings if any of the guests were lesbian or gay.” Parliament Vice-Speaker Manana Kobakhidze responded after been asked whether LGBTI people attended those meetings.

“Those people do not even consider us as citizens of this country, who have right to participate in parliamentary discussions, that we have rights of honor, dignity, freedom of expression, participating in election and all the other rights guaranteed by the constitution,” Gabadadze said.

There is a possibility to bring up this issue on a referendum as Central Election Commission approved the question about same-sex marriage in the end of March.