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Slovak Republic: Marriage Defined as Between One Man and One Woman

(June 10, 2014) On June 4, 2014, the National Council of the Slovak Republic (NCSR, the country’s parliament) adopted an amendment to the Slovak Constitution to define marriage as “the unique bond between one man and one woman.” (Julie Deisher, Slovakia Amends Constitution to Define Marriage as Between One Man and One Woman, PAPER CHASE (June 5, 2014).) Of 128 National Council Members present, 102 voted in favor of the measure, 18 voted against, 3 abstained, and 5 did not vote. (Hlasovanie podl’a klubov: Národná rada Slovenskej republiky – hlasovanie poslancov [record of the vote], NCSR website (June 4, 2014).)

The relevant provision of the Constitution, article 41(1), heretofore stated: “[m]arriage, parenthood and the family are under the protection of the law. The special protection of children and minors is guaranteed.” The amended provision inserts two new sentences, so that the provision will begin: “Marriage is a unique union between a man and a woman. The Slovak Republic broadly protects and promotes its good … ” (Constitution of the Slovak Republic (as last amended 2006), NCSR website [click on English title]; Ústava Slovenskej republiky [Constitution of the Slovak Republic], Law No. 460/1992 (as last amended by Law No. 232 of 2012), NCSR website; Schválené znenie zákona NRSR 921 [Approved Consolidation Act NRSR 921] [text of the amendment proposal], NCSR website [scroll to bottom of page under Prilozené dokumenty to locate].)

Moreover, explanatory notes appended to an earlier version of the legislation explicitly state that, because of this definition of marriage, “marriage therefore cannot arise between persons of the same sex.” (Parlamentná tlac 921 [text of the proposal] (Feb. 2014), NCSR website [click on Parlamentná tlac 921 (314 KB) to view, then scroll down to page 9 and find “K bodu 1” under B. Osobitná cast’]; Love Is a Human Right [in Slovak], Amnesty International Slovensko website (June 5, 2014).)

Amnesty International Slovakia (AIS) has expressed concern that the new definition is contrary to European Union and international human rights law. The head of the advocacy group in Slovakia, Jela Dobošová, is of the view that the measure’s adoption represents “a clear step backwards” for the country’s obligation to combat all forms of discrimination. She added that the amendment goes against the positive measures that had been adopted to meet this obligation, such as the revision of the Criminal Code in 2013 to include sexual orientation as part of the characterization of hate crimes. (Love Is a Human Right, supra.) AIS also criticized the parliament for rushing passage of the amendment, giving the Slovak public “little time to express its opinions regarding same-sex marriage.” (Deisher, supra.)

The provision defining marriage is just one of some 14 revisions comprising the amendment law. The new law is to enter into force on September 1, 2014. (Schválené znenie zákona NRSR 921, supra.)