Slovenia launches vote on gay marriage
The country’s EU commissioner and MEPs weigh in on the referendum.
By Ryan Heath (politico.eu, 15/12/2015)
EU politicians, including European commissioner Violeta Bulc, are urging Slovenia to back same-sex marriage as early voting begins Tuesday on a referendum that could overturn a controversial marriage equality law.
If the country supports gay marriage — as Irish voters did in May 2015 — Slovenia would break new ground, becoming the first Central European, Slavic and post-Communist nation to do so. In contrast, more than 10 Western European countries have implemented same-sex marriage laws.
The referendum results will be released Sunday. Voters are deciding whether to uphold a Slovenian law passed in March that legalizes gay marriage.
Bulc, Slovenia’s member of the European Commission, told POLITICO she filmed a video for the “Za” (Yes) campaign with members of her team in a personal capacity, after being denied use of the Commission’s official television studios.
While European Commission First Vice President Frans Timmermans has been avocal advocate for marriage equality, including through the Commission’s official communication channels, Bulc’s team said they were rebuffed because the institution does not have a position on the Slovenia referendum.
“I am for an open and integrated society. A society that respects diversity … Vote Yes!” Bulc says in the video.
Tanja Fajon, a Slovenian MEP, has spent recent days campaigning for the yes team with the message that “No one can have less rights because of love.” Former Slovenian Prime Minister Alenka Bratušek (rejected as an EU commissioner by the European Parliament in 2014) joined Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel with a similar message.
Campaigners from MEP offices at the European Parliament, including a large Socialist contingent, are also on board.
In Slovenia, President Borut Pahor has backed the law, but taken a low-profile position ahead of the vote.
The referendum’s “no” campaign is spearheaded by groups such as “Children Are at Stake,” who argue that the marriage equality law does not recognize the importance of motherhood and fatherhood for the development of a child, according to its spokesperson Metka Zevnik.
Slovenians have the right to appeal laws passed by the national parliament — as the Marriage and Family Relations Act was in March 2015 (its purpose is to allow same-sex couples to marry). Activists collected more than 80,000 signatures to request a referendum on the law.
Dušan Vučko, a spokesperson for the Slovenian electoral commission, told Delo that a minimum of 343,104 voters (20 percent of more than 1.7 million registered) will have to cast their vote for the result of the referendum to be valid. More than half of those who vote will need to reject the law in order for it to be overturned.
A 2015 Eurobarometer survey conducted for the European Commission found that 54 percent of Slovenians thought that same-sex marriage should be permitted throughout Europe, while 40 percent were opposed.
A poll conducted November 30 for Delo put the “yes” and “no” camps in a statistical tie, with 42 percent in favor and 41 against.
Slovenian lawmakers, activists and voters have waged a 10-year, back-and-forth battle over LGBT rights. Laws to grant increasing rights to same-sex couples have on several occasions been defeated at the final parliamentary hurdle or ballot box, including a 2012 referendum in which 54.55 percent of voters rejected a law that would have expanded rights for same-sex registered partnerships.
Slovenian media report that the referendum is considered by many to be a test of support for the ruling Modern Centre Party (SMC) of Prime Minister Miro Cerar, which backs same-sex marriage. SMC has recently suffered a steep decline in support in opinion polls, dropping to just 7.6 percent this week.