Slovenia has rejected a move to legislate same sex marriage in a public referendum that was held on Sunday.
Almost two thirds of voters have rejected in the referendum same sex marriage as well as the right to adopt children. However, only 36.2% of the electorate turned out to vote, which, activists say, has probably affected the outcome.
Referring to the low turnout, Slovenian LGBTI activist Roman Kuhar told Reuters: “The problem is that only people who are strongly against the law or strongly in its favour vote in a referendum.”
He also expressed the view that this vote is only a temporary setback, particularly in the light of the low turnout: “I still believe that Slovenia is generally moving towards a more inclusive society and I am sure a similar law will be enforced at some point in the future.”
The referendum was ordered after opponents of marriage equality, who joined together to form the “For Children” group, went to court to stop the Slovenian parliament implementing a law passed in March this year which gave same sex couples the right to marry and to adopt children, reported the BBC.
Opponents included the right wing Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), the Christian Democrat party New Slovenia, the Catholic Church and the campaign group Children At Stake. Ales Primc, spokesperson for the campaign group, hailed the referendum result as a victory, he declared: “This result presents a victory for our children.”
The website For Children released a statement saying: “We are against the law that would deny the basic right of a child to have a mother and a father.”
The day before the referendum Pope Francis intervened in the debate making clear the Catholic Church’s opposition to the marriage equality, saying: “back the family as the structural reference point for the life of society”.
The result was all the more disappointing as Slovenia has a history of being more liberal than other countries in the region, and was the first of the former Yugoslavian nations to decriminalise homosexuality. However, in a 2012 referendum, voters also rejected giving more rights to same sex couples.
Violeta Tomic, an MP of the United Left Party which originally introduced the marriage equality bill, expressed the view that there is still hope, telling the BBC:“It’s not over yet. Sooner or later the law will be accepted.”
Currently, eleven EU countries allow same sex marriage, and a further eight (including Slovenia) recognise same sex civil unions. Nine countries do not recognise any form of same sex partnership. Although LGBTI rights in relation to employment and access to services are protected under EU wide regulations, individual countries decide for themselves on issues such as marriage, partnership recognition and adoption.