Romanians will hold a public ballot on a constitutional amendment that would officially define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Depending on the outcome of the October 7 vote, it could effectively outlaw gay marriage.

The move has been angrily opposed by LGBT+ rights campaigners.

As reported by the Independent, the conservative organisation Coalition for the Family raised the issue by submitting a petition to parliament containing three million signatures and proposing a change to the constitution, calling for the replacement of references to “spouses” with less ambiguous, gender-specific wording.

The suggestion was approved by the Romanian senate in mid-September by 107 votes to 13 and was then passed the Constitutional Court with a seven to two majority, forcing the referendum.

A ruling by the European Court of Justice in July, forced Romania to acknowledge the residency rights of same-sex spouses following a case brought by a Romanian man on behalf of his American husband.

But like Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Latvia, the Eastern European nation does not offer legal protection to gay and lesbian couples and voting the change into law would only set that inequality in stone, with many fearing a “yes” vote would embolden hate speech or even homophobic violence.

According to The Independent, a Romanian LGBT+ rights group, has accused senators of “raising homophobia to state value and sacrificing constitutional protection for many families.”

“This referendum is essentially asking people to approve discriminating against their neighbours, colleagues, friends and family members,” said Katrin Hugendubel, European advocacy director at the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).

“Rainbow families, diverse family groups, loving families living in Romania right now are all threatened by this proposal.”