Editor’s Note: Longtime Catholic family activist Francesco Belletti, who serves as a consultant to the Pontifical Council for the Family, spoke with Vatican Radio Dec. 2nd on the implications for Italy and other countries of the Dec. 1st referendum on marriage in Croatia. Belletti holds a Masters in political science from the University of Milan and has worked since the early 1980s with an array of Italian non-profit groups defending life and family. Since 2009, he has served as national president of the Forum of Family Associations.
Croatia has said “no” to gay marriage. The referendum, that was opposed by the government, stipulated that marriage must be defined in the Constitution as the exclusive union between a man and a woman.
65.77% of the voters said yes to the exclusive definition of heterosexual marriage, against 33.62% of “no”.
Low voter turnout: 38% of the approximately 3.8 million of those entitled to vote. This does not invalidate the referendum, which in Croatia does not require a minimum of participation.
The amendment to the Constitution aligns the Croatian referendum with Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria, the five EU countries that already have an exclusively heterosexual definition of marriage according to their constitutions.
Vatican Radio: Why are the proponents of gay marriage afraid of the use of referendums on issues that affect the social life of a country and the personal lives of citizens?
Francesco Belletti: This referendum shows that the popular feeling, that the attitude of individuals with regard to the theme of marriage and the identity of the family is very cautious, very careful to keep a history and a tradition that is thousands of years of sexual identity, male and female, the responsibilities of parents towards their children.
[The referendum is] the confirmation that some positions, say, asking for extreme assimilation, marriage for gay people, is against the common sentiment, the popular wisdom. Such interventions are, let us say, elitist, which in the media world, the world of politics, manages to have a lot more say than I have with the common people.
VR: Indeed, in Croatia, in addition to center-left parties, other academics and a large part of the press said they were opposed to this consultation.
FB: Look, here is the intellectual short circuit. In my opinion, these ideological positions fail to mark the difference between the respect which is due to every person and thus with regards to sexual orientation to individuals who are homosexual or heterosexual – and this is always guaranteed! – and the idea that this creates an automatic recognition of the family and of marriage as possible [for homosexuals].
Instead, the Croatian people said: “Marriage and the family have a very precise meaning, built in our history, about the love between a man and a woman and openness to life. This we want to defend!” This is not a homophobic attitude, it intends no injury to the dignity of the person, but this distinction; the defense of the meaning of the word “family” is always about sexual difference. Luckily the people are still unable to distinguish.
VR: Croatia now becomes the sixth country in Europe – along with Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria – which will have a constitutional definition of marriage that is exclusively heterosexual. So, is this the right way to avoid interventions “imposed” from above?
FB: It’s a way that’s possible, which is becoming more important than we thought a few decades ago. In fact in our [Italian] Constitution was not written so that marriage is founded on sexual difference, because it was so objectively and was recognized as such by all, so there was no need. Today it seems that there is a need! And [this is] one of the ways to legally defend what is a natural truth, which belongs to common sense. Our Constitution spoke of the family as a natural society founded on marriage, and it was automatically understood that this would also be between a man and a woman. And now we need to add, to defend it in legal language, probably even in the legislation.
VR: Can the result of the referendum in Croatia also encourage other countries to request consultations on these issues that are so important?
FB: Look, I expect, from now on, a rain of criticism, accusations of obscurantism leveled at the Croats saying they are not a modern people … There will be a great debate. And I fear that the various European parliaments and the various Courts of Justice will be very aggressive with respect to this choice. Thank goodness our Europe is based on the principle of subsidiarity: family policies and family is the theme for the individual countries. So, the example of this consultation is an example that gives comfort.
When people are able to express themselves, to talk, to say what they really believe about such foundational human issues, then the truth comes out clearer than it is out in the “ambushing” by amendments to the laws or debates in the aulas of many national parliaments, regional or municipal governments or even at the European level. Thus, there is a problem of active citizenship: the people who believe in the value of the family must be heard!
This interview is republished with permission. Read the transcript of the original interview in Italian here.