A leading human rights group has condemned an attempt by Senators in the Romanian parliament to change the country’s Family Code on marriage.

The far-right Greater Romania Party’s amendment, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, was passed unanimously by the Senate Judicial Committee.

It will need full Senate approval before it moves to the Chamber of Deputies.

In a letter sent to Romanian government officials, Human Rights Watch said the proposed change would deprive many Romanian families of basic civil rights and introduce inequality into law.

At present the Family Code states that family is based on “marriage between spouses.”

“There is no excuse for playing politics with families’ welfare,” said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Programme at Human Rights Watch.

“These proposals not only deliberately discriminate against same-sex couples but threaten their families, including children.

“It is an insult to Romania’s achievements elsewhere in overcoming discrimination.”

In December 2006 an EU funded poll found that just 11% of Romanians approved of same-sex marriage.

Romania only joined the EU at the beginning of 2007, at which time it was required to recognise same-sex couples registered in other member states.

The country includes sexual orientation in its anti-discrimination legislation and allows those who have undergone gender reassignment to change their identity.

It was one of the last European countries to decriminalise homosexuality in 1996, and a further law banning “manifestations of homosexuality” was finally repealed in 2001.

In 2002 the age of consent was equalised at 15.

“European law and policy increasingly recognises and protects the diversity of family forms,” said Dittrich.

“Romania’s lawmakers should do likewise.”