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Croatia to hold popular referendum on marriage equality ban

Marriage equality

The flag of Croatia.
The flag of Croatia.

This week, a parliamentary commission in Crotia approved a popular referendum that will ask the country’s citizens to approve or reject a ban on marriage equality.  J. Lester Feder reports for BuzzFeed:

The commission voted 10-3 to hold a referendum on whether to constitutionally define marriage as being between a man and a woman. Croatia currently has minimal partnership protections in the form of “cohabitation agreements.”

The decision comes at an awkward moment for the Balkan country. Croatia officially joined the European Union on July 1, and its LGBTI rights record came under close scrutiny in the lead-up. It was required to adopt a law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation as a condition of EU membership.

News of the vote broke as Croatia was in the midst of hosting a meeting of the International Gay and Lesbian Association’s (ILGA) European branch in its capital, Zagreb, gathering 290 LGBTI activists from 40 countries. Top human rights officials from the U.S. and EU also came to lend their support to the conference — though all declined to comment on the proposed marriage amendment, reflecting that even as marriage has become a central plank of an LGBTI rights agenda in their domestic constituencies, it still remains taboo when it comes to international diplomacy.

As Feder points out, the move demonstrates an interesting nuance in the Obama administration’s diplomacy on LGBT issues.  While the administration has been very vocal in support of LGBT rights around the world, speaking out against hate crimes and discrimination, Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Uzra Zeya, who heads the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, told Croatian reporters, “As a matter of policy, the U.S. government does not advocate for or against same-sex marriage in other countries.”

According to Feder, if the marriage equality ban referendum passes, Croatia’s constitution will not be immediately amended to restrict marriage to different-sex couples.  Instead, it will be up to parliament to vote on whether to accept the potentially voter-approved amendment, meaning parliament could veto the will of the people.

Sanja Juras, a coordinator at Lesbian Group Kontra, an NGO, and a host of the ILGA-Europe conference told BuzzFeed that her organization was surprised the commission unexpectedly allowed the referendum to move forward.

Vesna Pusić, Croatia’s foreign minister, expressed disappointment with the referendum, but said that the group seeking to ban marriage equality, In the Name of the Family, had gathered enough signatures to hold a vote, tying the government’s hands.

“I actually think it’s the kind of issue that shouldn’t be voted on in the referendum, especially minority rights because by definition … they could be easily endangered by a referendum [passed by] the majority,” she said. “However, unfortunately, this is at the moment how our constitution stands and we are debating this issue how to prevent this in the future.”

1 Comment

  • 1. Kalista  |  December 1, 2013 at 2:28 am

    Equality on trial? For who? Firstly, Croatian homosexual community initially refused Law on same-sex living communities which Government offer to them and where it was all sorted out … they provocative wanted more. what else? what more? All the time LGBTQ community telling us that they want of us that we accept them with theirs differences and at the same time want to be the same with us. Logic? No, paradox . We are not the same because we love differently , it means we are different . And at the end … why everyone else thought that definition of marriage as a man and a woman in the Croatian Constitution abolish them homosexual rights? For me, it will not. I personaly will try that this does not happen, although I voted for definition in the Constitution. They could have all their rights abovementioned Law as heterosexual have in Family Law . Why that Law was not good enough for them? No one defends them to love, to live, to be in their same-sex union … But why do they want to name their same-sex union with the same name as heterosexuals… and, I mention again , all the time they say that they are different ? ? ? They can their same-sex union named differently and the problem is solved … Such a solution, which I have stated, is not discrimination but – finding solutions to the halfway! And…. Japan is a highly developed country whose Constitution has definition that marriage is between a man and a woman, while at the same time and the LGBTQ community has rights. Why do you think such a thing can not be in Croatia?

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