On June 15, thousands of people marched through the center of Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, in celebration of Gay Pride and in support of same-sex marriage. It was the largest LGBT march in the country’s history, drawing an estimated 12,000 participants, including the country’s Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister’s wife.
One day earlier Croatia’s parliament received a petition signed by approximately 740,000 people opposing same-sex marriage. That’s nearly one-fifth of the country’s population. The signatures were gathered by the Catholic Church-backed group, In the Name of the Family, who allegedly wrangled 6,000 volunteers to canvas in more than 2,000 locations across the country.
Currently, there is no specific definition of marriage in Croatia’s constitution. Though the country has never had an official same-sex marriage, conservative activists are seeking to block the possibility by requesting a referendum defining marriage as a “life-long union of a woman and a man.”
In Croatia, couples who have been living together for three or more years are considered unregistered cohabitants. This title grants them limited rights and responsibilities.
The government recently announced that they were preparing a law that would enable same-sex couples to register as “life partners,” which would allow them more rights. This is what led to the push-back from In the Name of the Family and other conservatives.
The dispute has divided Croatia just weeks before it is set to become the 28th member of the European Union. The country has taken many strides to improve gay rights in recent years, but issues like same-sex marriage remain highly sensitive in the predominantly Catholic nation.
The parliament is now required by law to review the petition, but it has no deadline for doing so.
Gay rights activists and human rights groups in Croatia have criticized the referendum initiative, calling it homophobic and requesting the government block the move. They also alleged that In the Name of the Family bullied people into signing the petition, telling them that if they wanted to be married in a church, or have their child baptized or attend a Catholic school, they must support the referendum.
Hmmm… Last we checked blackmail wasn’t on the list of Catholic values.
Photo credit: Goran Zec.