Fighting ‘gender ideology’ with Christian Orthodoxy before the Bulgarian Constitutional Court

After declaring the Istanbul Convention unconstitutional in 2018 due to espousing a hidden ‘gender ideology’ (case 3/2018), in October 2021 the Bulgarian Constitutional Court (BCC) proclaimed the constitutional term ‘sex’ as exclusively biologically determined and without a socially constructed dimension (case 6/2021). For the first time, the Court explicitly coupled Bulgaria’s constitutional identity with the religious values and beliefs of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which was invited to submit opinions in both cases. Both decisions were delivered among rising nationalist, Christian conservative narratives, fuelled by the pervasive anti-LGBT (and generally anti-human rights) rhetoric in Bulgaria’s social, political and media mainstream. Adopting a law-in-context approach, this paper will assess whether and how these narratives have penetrated the BCC’s jurisprudence and their potential implications for the fraught relationship between gender and constitutionalism in Bulgaria.