Low turnout in anti-gay referendum a blow to the Pope


slovakia_anti_gay_referendum_gets_low_turnoutSlovakians have rejected a controversial anti-gay referendum supported by the Catholic Church by not turning out to vote.

Saturday’s referendum asked voters three questions: If they agreed with limiting marriage to only being between a man and a woman; barring same-sex couples from adopting children; and allowing children to opt out of being taught about sexual behaviour or euthanasia if their parents didn’t agree with it.

Although the vast majority of people who voted (up to 90%) approved the proposals, not enough actually cast a vote to make the results binding.

Under the law, more than 50% of registered voters needed to have taken part, but only 21.4% of those eligible did so.

The referendum was initiated by conservative groups, and supported by an American far-right evangelical organisation. They presented a petition to the government with 400 000 signatures calling for the vote.

The low turnout is also a major blow to the Catholic Church, the dominant church in Slovakia. Last week, Pope Francis expressed his support for the referendum. He said at the Vatican: “…I wish to express my appreciation to the entire Slovak church, encouraging everyone to continue their efforts in defence of the family, the vital cell of society.”

Boris Dittrich, the LGBT rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, welcomed the referendum’s collapse. “Slovakia’s people voted with their feet not to take part in this effort to limit their fellow citizens’ human rights,” he said. “The referendum was shaped by homophobic views, designed purely to limit and discriminate against the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.”

Following the people’s lead, the government should introduce legislation to legally recognise same-sex relationships and affirm the rights of LGBT people to form a family and raise children, Human Rights Watch said.

“The Slovak public has indicated it does not want arbitrary discrimination against LGBT families,” Dittrich added. “The Slovakian government should protect LGBT people and their children by introducing legislation that is in line with their obligations as an EU member state and with legislation in other EU countries.”

A 2012 poll found that 47 percent of Slovaks support registered partnerships, with the proviso of “without the possibility of adoption.” Fifty-two percent, however, said that they were opposed to same-sex couples attending family gatherings.

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