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Romanian Official Refuses to Marry Couple

June 7, 2004

CLUJ, Romania (AP) _ The groom said ``yes,″ but a city hall official said ``no.″ He refused to marry a couple because the groom didn’t voice his consent in Romanian first, authorities said Monday.

Vasile Gherman, a city hall official authorized to perform civil marriages, refused to marry Andrei Dombi, 44, an ethnic Hungarian with dual Romanian and French citizenship to Anca Diana Toma, 33, after Dombi said ``yes″ in Hungarian, Romanian and French _ ``igen, da, oui.″

Mircea Jorj, chief of the judicial department at Cluj City Hall, said Gherman might face disciplinary action. ``He didn’t act correctly,″ he said.

The couple said they would sue Gherman.

``I said ``igen″ cause I am ethnic Hungarian, ``da″ cause I am a Romanian citizen and ``oui″ cause I am French,″ said Dombi of Sunday’s ceremony. ``It was not something premeditated.″

Gherman said that he needed to hear a clear consent from the groom and hearing ``yes,″ in three languages was confusing.

``If he had said ``da″ first, I would have married them,″ Gherman said. He added that he called for the couple later in the day to marry them, but they weren’t to be found.

Gherman already refused to marry Hungarian couples twice in the past after they said ``yes″ in both Romanian and Hungarian.

After one of the couples sued, the court ordered city hall to pay them 40 million lei (US$ 1,200).

A law that took effect in 2001 grants ethnic minorities the right to use their mother tongue in legal affairs that take place in parts of Romania where their minority group exceeds 20 percent of the population.

More than 20 percent of Cluj residents are ethnic Hungarian. The city’s nationalist mayor, Gheorghe Funar _ known for his anti-Hungarian stance _ lost elections on Sunday, coming third in a mayoral race.

Most Romanian ethnic Hungarians live in Transylvania, which was under Austro-Hungarian rule for centuries until 1918.

(str/at/am/gj)

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