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Slovak Republic: Effort to Ban Same-Sex Marriage Fails

(Feb. 12, 2015) On February 7, 2015, Slovakia held a national referendum on the subject of same-sex marriage. The initiative, designed to strengthen the country’s ban on the practice, failed due to low voter participation. Instead of the 50% needed for a valid vote, only approximately 21% of those eligible took part. The questions the voters considered were whether marriage should be defined as only for a male and female pair, whether same-sex partners should be allowed to adopt children, and whether parents should be able to have their children skip classes on euthanasia and sex education. Of those voting, about 95% favored a ban on same-sex marriages. (Emelina Perez, Slovakia Referendum on Same-Sex Marriage Ban Fails, PAPER CHASE (Feb. 8, 2015); Slovakia Referendum to Strengthen Same-Sex Marriage Ban Fails, BBC NEWS (Feb. 8, 2015).)

Background

The referendum had been proposed by the Alliance for Family, whose spokesman Anton Chromik expressed satisfaction that a majority of those who voted supported the Alliance’s views. He added that “[w]e will continue our struggle to protect the family.” (Slovakia Referendum to Strengthen Same-Sex Marriage Ban Fails, supra.) The referendum had received the required 400,000 signatures in order to appear on the ballot. (Perez, supra.) It followed a constitutional amendment adopted in 2014 that provides that “it will be impossible for the rights and duties associated with marriage to be conferred in any way other than a legally recognised union between a man and a woman.” (Joseph Patrick McCormick, Slovak Constitution Amended to Specifically Ban Same-Sex Relationships, PINK NEWS (June 4, 2014); Wendy Zeldin, Slovak Republic: Marriage Defined as Between One Man and One Woman, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (June 10, 2014).)

Opposition to the Referendum

Gay rights advocates had urged Slovaks to boycott the vote. (Perez, supra.) In addition, human rights groups such as Amnesty International criticized the referendum ahead of polling day, stating that it could “lead to a breach of international human rights standards,” particularly concerning adoption. (Slovakia: Referendum on Marriage Panders to Homophobic Discrimination, AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL (Feb. 2, 2015).) Barbora Cernusakova of Amnesty International stated that the “referendum could lead to a significant step back for Slovakia. If the public says yes to these questions and they’re adopted into law, Slovakia bolsters homophobic discrimination and undermines sexuality education.” (Id.)