Slovak same-sex marriage referendum, 2015

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A referendum on banning same-sex marriage was held in Slovakia on 7 February 2015.[1][2] Critics claimed the referendum was pushed by religious and conservative organisations,[3] aiming to block gay couples from gaining more rights.[4]

Despite conservative groups receiving the support of Pope Francis[5] and spending €110,000 00 on the campaign, the referendum failed with only 21.4% of citizens casting a vote.[6]

Background[edit]

In June 2014, the Slovakia National Council amended the country's constitution to specifically deny same sex couples the legal protections associated with marriage.[7][8]

The referendum was initiated after the conservative church backed group Alliance for Family gathered 400,000 signatures calling for a vote on the law.[1][9] The Conference of Slovak Bishops, which organises anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia rallies overwhelmingly supported the move.[9][10]

Questions[edit]

Voters were asked questions on three issues:[11]

  • Do you agree that only a bond between one man and one woman can be called marriage?
  • Do you agree that same-sex couples or groups should not be allowed to adopt and raise children?
  • Do you agree that schools cannot require children to participate in education pertaining to sexual behaviour or euthanasia if the children or their parents don’t agree?[12]

A fourth question on registered partners was rejected by the Constitutional Court.[1]

In order for the proposal to be approved, voter turnout needed to be at least 50%.[1]

Campaign[edit]

Supporters of the referendum campaigned predominantly in churches,[13] with the Conference of Slovak Bishops raising funds for the campaign.[14] 62% of Slovaks identify as Catholics, and although less than 40 percent of those attend mass regularly, Reuters describes Slovakia as "one of the most religious countries in Europe on the surface".[4]

The vote, which cost more than €6.3 million to run, led to conservative groups spending around €110,000 on advertisements.[15] The Christian conservative activism platform CitizenGo, run by Brian S. Brown, the American founder of the National Organization for Marriage, supported the referendum.[16]

Slovakia's LGBT groups, which are smaller and less organised than their opponents, encouraged people not to vote at all, for fear that "no" voters might push turnout over 50%.[12][17][18]

Reactions[edit]

Former Slovak Prime Minister Iveta Radičová said that if the referendum passes, "It will not improve the standing of families and marriages; and there won’t be any more children, either."[19] She criticised the referendum as being pushed by people "want to cover up the real problems" in Slovakia, like "balancing of work responsibilities with childcare, unemployment," financial insecurity and domestic violence. Radičová described the movement as motivated by "the fear of the new, the unknown, and the other" and condemned opposition to sex education, pointing out that it is proven to reduce sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, and delay sexual experimentation.

The libertarian party Freedom and Solidarity criticised the referendum,[9] as did the EU parliament's Socialists and Democrats.[3]

Boris Dittrich criticised the involvement of American Evangelical donors like Alliance Defending Freedom in determining the social agenda in Eastern European democracies, when they had lost on same-sex marriage in America.[20] Amnesty International has condemned the country's discrimination against LGBT people[21][22][23] and the international media, including The Economist, critiqued the political process in the country.[24] Gay rights groups criticised the referendum, saying "unemployment, social problems and alcoholism" would not be solved by a vote to ban gay marriages or adoptions.[9] International critics criticised the ruling social democratic party for pandering to populist religious homophobia, and critiqued the ballot as a waste of millions of euros,[25] and a distraction from Slovakia's economic woes,[26] and "genuine problems of Slovak public policy."[27]

Pope Francis supported the referendum, blessing the opponents of gay rights, stating “I greet the pilgrims from Slovakia and, through them, I wish to express my appreciation to the entire Slovak church, encouraging everyone to continue their efforts in defense of the family, the vital cell of society.”[28][29][30]

A group of theologians issued a position paper claiming that the referendum is touching on ethical questions and those should be solved by discussion rather than by voting. The authors of the position Ondrej Prostredník, František Ábel and Igor Kišš, all from the Lutheran Theological Faculty of Comenius University in Bratislava also claimed that several times in history the way of shortcuts and authoritarian decisions in favor of Christian values proved to be bad and damaged the very cause of Christ’s Gospel. They also criticized the referendum as an immoral attempt to shift the responsibility for the crisis of family values in the Slovak society to homosexuals. The position paper as joined by 48 theologians and intellectuals from different churches and sectors of the society.[31]

Another EU nation, Croatia, banned same-sex marriages in a constitutional referendum on 1 December 2013. Turnout in Croatia was also less than 50%, but its constitution does not invalidate a referendum based on turnout.

Opinion polls[edit]

A Eurobarometer poll on in 2006 found that 19% of Slovaks supported same sex marriage and 81% opposed, while 12% supported and 84% opposed LGBT adoption.[32] A European Social Survey in 2010 found that 42% of Slovaks believe that “gay men and lesbians should be free to live their own lives as they wish.”[33]

Polls suggested that only 35% of the population intended to vote in the referendum, with 85% of respondents supporting the first motion banning same sex marriage, 78% supporting a ban on LGBT adoption, and 70% supporting the third question on sex education.[34] Opposition towards the referendum questions was higher amongst students, single people, those under 35, supporters of the libertarian party Freedom and Solidarity, those with openly gay family members or colleagues, people who live in more progressive town environments, and atheists and people with weaker religious beliefs.

Results[edit]

The referendum was deemed invalid due to low turnout, with just 21.4% of eligible voters casting votes,[35] far short of the 50% required for the results to be legally binding.

Question For Against Invalid/
blank
Total Registered
voters
Turnout
Votes % Votes %
Question 1 – marriage 892,719 94.50 39,088 4.13 12,867 944,674 4,411,529 21.41%
Question 2 – adoption 873,224 92.43 52,389 5.54 19,061
Question 3 – sex education 853,241 90.32 69,349 7.34 22,084
Source: Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Slovakia to Hold Referendum on Same-Sex Marriage". ABC News. Nov 27, 2014. Archived from the original on Dec 9, 2014. 
  2. ^ "Slovakia to hold referendum on same-sex marriage". AP Bigstory. 27 Nov 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Socialists and Democrats of EU parliament slam Slovak referendum". Slovak Spectator. 6 Feb 2015. 
  4. ^ a b Jan Lopatka (5 Feb 2015). "Slovak conservatives seek to bar gay marriage in referendum". Reuters.com. 
  5. ^ Antonia Blumberg (6 Feb 2015). "Pope Francis Backs Slovakia's Referendum Against Same-Sex Marriage, Adoption Rights". Huffington Post Religion. 
  6. ^ Leos Rousek (7 Feb 2015). "Slovakia Referendum on Gay-Adoption Ban Fails". Wall Street Journal. 
  7. ^ Julie Diesher (5 Jun 2014). "Slovakia amends constitution to define marriage as between one man and one woman". Jurist Paper Chase. 
  8. ^ John Boyd (6 Jun 2014). "Amnesty International Condemns Anti-Gay Constitutional Change". thedaily.sk. 
  9. ^ a b c d "Slovakia holds referendum on gay marriage". Deutsche Welle. 6 Feb 2015. 
  10. ^ "Group seeks gay marriage referendum". Slovak Spectator. 17 Mar 2014. 
  11. ^ President announces the referendum on "protection of the family" The Slovak Spectator, 3 January 2015
  12. ^ a b "Slovakia's anti-gay activists: Uncivil society". The Economist. 5 Jan 2015. 
  13. ^ Frank Markovic (30 Jan 2015). "Slovakia's anti-gay referendum". Visegrad Insight. Visegrád Group. 
  14. ^ J Lester Feder. "Pope Endorses Referendum Denying Marriage And Adoption Rights To Same-Sex Couples". Buzzfeed. 
    As quoted by Trudy Ring (5 Feb 2015). "Pope Has Kind Words for Backers of Anti-Equality Measures in Slovakia". The Advocate. 
  15. ^ Radka Minarechová (26 Jan 2015). "Turnout key to referendum result". Slovak Spectator. 
  16. ^ Miranda Blue (28 Jan 2015). "Brian Brown's CitizenGo Promoting Anti-LGBT Referendum In Slovakia". Right Wing Watch. People for the American Way. 
  17. ^ John Boyd (19 Jan 2015). "Anti-Gay Referendum Stirring Sentiment". TheDaily.sk. 
  18. ^ Henry Foy (6 Feb 2015). "Activists trust to apathy as Slovakia faces vote to ban gay marriage". Ft.com blog. 
  19. ^ Monika Tódová (6 Feb 2015). "Iveta Radičová: I worry that all we will be left with is filth". Visegrad Revue. 
  20. ^ Boris Dittrich (6 Feb 2015). "Dispatches: Unholy Alliance for Slovakia's Referendum Risks Rights". Human Rights Watch Dispatches. 
  21. ^ "Slovakia: Referendum on marriage panders to homophobic discrimination". Amnesty International News. Amnesty International. 2 Feb 2015. 
  22. ^ "Slovakia: Amnesty International condemns discriminatory constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman" (PDF). Amnesty International. 5 June 2015. 
  23. ^ Wendy Zeldin (10 Jun 2014). "Slovak Republic: Marriage Defined as Between One Man and One Woman". Law.gov. Library of Congress. 
  24. ^ "No Freedom Till We're Equal, Slovakia's Referendum". TheDaily.sk. 23 Jan 2015. 
  25. ^ Beata Balogová (3 Nov 2014). "Bigoted balloting". Slovak Spectator. 
  26. ^ Dave Stancel. "The Dirty Politics behind Slovakia's Ban on Same-Sex Marriage". Students For Liberty. 
  27. ^ Dalibor Roháč (25 Dec 2014). "Slovakia's curious cultural war". Visegrad Revue. 
    As quoted in DALIBOR ROHAC (5 Feb 2015). "The Unlikely Fight over Gay Rights in the Heart of Europe". Cato Institute blog. 
  28. ^ Trudy Ring (5 Feb 2015). "Pope Has Kind Words for Backers of Anti-Equality Measures in Slovakia". The Advocate. 
  29. ^ KAREL JANICEK. "In value clash with West, Slovakia votes on gay rights curb". AP Bigstory. Associated Press. 
  30. ^ J Lester Feder. "Pope Endorses Referendum Denying Marriage And Adoption Rights To Same-Sex Couples". Buzzfeed. 
  31. ^ Stanovisko teológov k referendu 7. 2. 2015 Jetotak, 2 February 2015
  32. ^ "EUROBAROMETER 66 FIRST RESULTS" (PDF). TNS. European Commission. December 2006. p. 80. Retrieved 6 August 2014. 
  33. ^ http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/12/12/eastern-and-western-europe-divided-over-gay-marriage-homosexuality/
  34. ^ "Slovaks are most tolerant of sexual education question". Slovak Spectator. 3 Feb 2015. 
  35. ^ "Referendum invalid, turnout low". The Slovak Spectator. 8 Feb 2015.