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Slovenia: Law on Same-Sex Marriage and Adoption Rights Passed

(Mar. 9, 2015) It was reported on March 3, 2015, that Slovenia’s National Assembly had passed amendments to the country’s Law on Marriage and Family Relations that grant equal status to same-sex and heterosexual unions. Fifty-one Deputies of the 90-member body voted in favor of the changes; 28 voted against it. (Press Release, Republic of Slovenia Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities [the Ministry], Same-Sex and Heterosexual Union Equal in Slovenia (Mar. 3, 2015), Ministry of Labour website; Composition and Organisation [of the National Assembly], National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia website (last visited Mar. 6, 2015); Seamus Kearney, Slovenia Becomes 11th EU Nation to Approve Gay Marriage, EURONEWS (Mar. 4, 2015).)

According to a press release issued by the Ministry, the amendments newly regulate the status of same-sex unions formed by marriage “and consequently ensure the same legal, financial and social consequences arising from the marriage or cohabitation of two people of different gender.” (Press Release, supra.)

Before the amendment, marriage was defined under the Law on Marriage and Family relations as “a legally regulated living community of a man and a woman.” (Law on Marriage and Family Relations (effective Jan. 1, 1977), art. 3(1), the Ministry website; Zakonu o zakonski zvezi in druzinskih razmerjih [Law on Marriage and Family Relations] (consolidated text, published June 24, 2004), URADNI LIST [official gazette] website.)

Under the amendments, the definition of marriage is extended to be “a union of two people not necessarily of different gender,” and in addition an equivalent definition of cohabitation is included in the revised Law. (Press Release, supra.) The changes also affect the Law’s provisions on adoption, making it possible for same-sex couples to adopt children. (Slovenia Says Yes to Gay Marriage and Same Sex Adoption, RT (Mar. 4, 2015).)

The draft legislation must be signed by the President of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, in order to become law. Slovenia will then become the 11th European, first Central European, and 21st country worldwide to grant the right of same-sex marriage to its citizens. (Kearney, supra; Kerry Brodie, Marriage Equality Comes to Slovenia, HRC BLOG (Mar. 3, 2015), Human Rights Campaign website.)

Slovenia had rejected a proposal to adopt same-sex marriage rights in a referendum held in 2012, and two center-right opposition parties and some interest groups expressed opposition to the latest legislation. (Slovenia Says Yes to Gay Marriage and Same Sex Adoption, supra.) In the view of members of the Slovenian Democratic Party, for example, the draft amendments to the Law interfere with the institution of marriage in a way that is contrary to article 53 of the country’s Constitution (on marriage and the family), as well as to the Resolution on the Foundations for Family Policy in the Republic of Slovenia and to positions taken by the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Justice of Human Rights. (The Amendment to the Law on Marriage and Family Relations Act Interferes with Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Slovenian Democratic Party website (Mar. 2, 2015) (in Slovenian); Slovenia Constitution (status as of May 25, 2007), International Constitutional Law website.)

Moreover, Slovenia’s Civil Initiative for Family and Children’s Rights stated that it would seek support for a referendum to oppose the law. (Slovenia Says Yes to Gay Marriage and Same Sex Adoption, supra.) Reportedly, however, such a move is not likely to succeed, because Slovenia changed the law in 2013 to prohibit referenda on issues involving human rights. (Id.)