Croatia says no to gay marriage with a wide majority

Low turnout at 35%. But cabinet announces law on civil unions

02 December, 11:48

    A young family casts their vote at a polling station in Zagreb during the referendum which is asking Croats to constitutionally define marriage as a union between a man and woman A young family casts their vote at a polling station in Zagreb during the referendum which is asking Croats to constitutionally define marriage as a union between a man and woman

    (by Franko Dota) (ANSAmed) - ZAGREB - Croatia, whose population is mainly Catholic, said a final no to same-sex marriage, including in its Constitution a definition of matrimony as a union between 'a man and a woman'. The majority of voters on Sunday, some 65.16%, backed the constitutional change while 34.23% voted against, according to data released on Sunday night by the electoral commission based on 90% of ballots counted.

    Traditional and Catholic values prevailed over the calls in the past few weeks issued by the government, president and many media outlets and the academic world, who had invited Croatians not to discriminate and divide families as first and second-class entities.

    Members of the movement 'In the name of family', close to the powerful Catholic Church, which promoted the initiative, said nobody would be discriminated because 'it is a natural definition of matrimony which respects reality'. The referendum was strongly backed by the Catholic Church and all bishops in their sermons Sunday had called on the faithful to vote "in favour of the Christian definition of marriage".

    Promoters said their initiative was a consequence of the legalization in France last May of gay marriage "to prevent the same from happening in Croatia". With this Constitutional change, Croatia joins Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria, five EU countries with an exclusive heterosexual definition of marriage in their Constitution.

    However, the democratic legitimacy of the referendum is on the line as turnout was extremely low, something which does not compromise its validity given that a quorum was not necessary.

    But the fact that only 35% of the country's 3.8 million would-be voters cast their ballots in such a significant referendum with constitutional powers has raised a few doubts.

    Moreover the Croatian Constitutional court has explained that the 'definition of marriage as a union between a man and woman' has no impact on the definition of family and that the referendum's outcome 'cannot limit in any way the future development of legislative regulations concerning civil unions between same-sex partners'.

    Indeed Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, defining as 'sad and useless' a referendum 'which is nothing more than a homophobic demonstration', announced Sunday that in one or two weeks his government will present a law on same-sex civil unions. The legislation provides for such unions to be granted the same rights as marriage couples except for adoption of minors.

    No comments were available from the referendum's 'yes' front after the Croatian press decided to boycott their headquarters when liberal newspapers and televisions were denied accreditation on Saturday. All newsrooms condemned 'this attempt to limit the freedom of expression and of the press' and expressed solidarity to colleagues who were banned from the offices of the initiative 'In the name of family'.(ANSAmed).

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