The Macedonian parliament on Tuesday approved a constitutional amendment which defines marriage as a heterosexual union.

A final vote is expected to take place later this week, though Tuesday's vote of 72-4 leaves little doubt about the final outcome.

The amendment also states that “legal relations in marriage, family, and civil unions are to be regulated by a law adopted by a two-thirds of the total number of Members of Parliament,” making it more difficult for the country to recognize gay couples with civil unions. A previous version of the amendment outlawed same-sex civil unions.

Talk in 2013 of a Gay Pride parade taking pace in Macedonia prompted the action. Some conservative politicians and the Orthodox Church responded by calling for the marriage ban.

Sophia in 't Veld, vice president of the Intergroup on LGBTI Rights, responded: “The Macedonian government should realize diversity is the source of prosperity and social stability, not an obstacle for it. Inversely, homophobia has never created a single job or indeed solved any other problem. Macedonia would be better served by following the trend of an increasing number of countries in Europe and the Americas where same-sex couples are legally recognized and protected.”

Gauri van Gulik, deputy director for Europe at Amnesty International, echoed a similar sentiment.

“Today's vote is another addition to discrimination, violence and intolerance on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in Macedonia,” he said. “Macedonia swims against the Europeans tide of legalizing same-sex marriage and to growing European human rights norms on equality.”

Gay couples can marry in 12 European countries and more than two dozen allow civil partnerships.