With so many Romanian voters having opted to stay home for the two-day referendum on whether to ban same-sex marriage, the government’s plan to officially codify that only a man and a woman can be classified as “married” appears to have failed at the polls as only 20.41% of registered voters turned out to cast a ballot. That number was well below the 30% needed for the consultative result to officially become law.

The pre-referendum campaign saw the country’s Orthodox priests roaming the countryside to muster support for the vote by launching verbal attacks on homosexuals, who they regularly described as being both mentally ill and paedophiles.

“We will have to defend our families. Do not stay at home. Do not be indifferent. Life is born of love between a man and a woman. All the rest is hell on earth,” the priests were heard telling potential voters.

Despite efforts by the conservative Social Democrats Party and the Orthodox Church, Romanian voters appear to either be indifferent to the issue or are more sympathetic to the country’s LGBT community and its slogan of “stay at home and make love.”

The debate over the marriage question is unlikely to have been fundamentally resolved, however. Romania’s conservative parties, as well as the Orthodox Church, have vowed to keep up their fight to define marriage as the sole provenance of the country’s heterosexual community.

“We have not achieved our goal, we will do it the next time,” said Mihai Gheorghiu, president of the “Coalition for the Family” and a driving force behind the failed referendum. The Coalition is an informal alliance of several conservative organisations and the Romanian Orthodox Church.

Prior to the recent poll, the group was successful in gathering more than three million signatures – far more than the minimum of 500,000 that are required – in its attempt to petition the government to have the constitution revised.

“This hate campaign has failed,” said ILGA Europe, the European region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association, who added that the referendum “demonstrates the attachment of the electorate to Romania’s European course and to democratic values.”

The Association also said in a separate announcement that in the wake of the poll result, it would step up its call for the Romanian government legally recognise same-sex couples.