Petitions show Croatians want to vote on marriage, but left-leaning government stalls

The government has changed the number of signatures necessary to trigger a national referendum.
Fri Jun 14, 2013 - 8:06 pm EST

ZAGREB, June 14, 2013 ( – Almost three-quarters-of-a-million Croatian citizens have said they want to decide for themselves whether to change the nation's definition of marriage, but the left-leaning coalition government is trying to move the democratic goal posts.

In May a pro-family initiative collected 730,000 signatures to present to the government demanding a referendum asking, “Do you support introduction of a provision into the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia to the effect that marriage is a living union of a woman and a man?”

The signatories represent about 20 percent of the country’s electorate in a nation of about 4.3 million. Croatia’s Referendum Act requires that petitioners secure the signatures of 10 percent of the electorate.

Following the 2011 elections, the new government announced the introduction of a bill to create registered civil partnerships for same-sex partners. The move is being opposed by a grassroots coalition called, “In the Name of the Family,” which says its task is to promote “universal human values, as well as religious associations, communities and movements – all those who hold the view that marriage is a union between a man and a woman only.”

The government, however, has responded that the electorate is larger than the official numbers. The Initiative expressed concern over what they described as a “democratic deficit” in the behavior of the ruling coalition parties.

Only a month before Croatia’s accession to the EU, the Minister of Administration changed the official number of voters in Croatia. Some 3,760,000 citizens were eligible to vote in the EU elections, but the government is now claiming that the electorate for this referendum exceeds 4,560,000 – “a number which almost certainly includes the deceased, ghosts, and double votes,” the Initiative said in a press statement.

Vesna Pusić Minister of Foreign Affairs has declared that the referendum does not have binding, only consultative function. Deputy Prime Minister Stazić also said the people’s vote in a referendum is not binding upon the government – contrary to the Constitutional provision which says the referendum is binding.

The results, said organizer Jelena Gazivoda, clearly show that “Croatian citizens want this important question to be discussed and decided on the highest of levels.”

Should the initiative succeed, it would be the first “popular” referendum in Croatia since the country gained independence.

Gazivoda said that the 6,000 volunteers and 1,200 coordinators who collected signatures across the country “were exposed to insults, humiliation, and physical attacks.”

“The books with citizens’ signatures were torn, the webpage was hacked and the logo of the initiative, “In the Name of the Family,” was copied by homosexual pressure groups in order to create confusion among the citizens.

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“In faculties and some other sites where signatures were being collected, they set up their own booths nearby, and with singing and noise tried to distract and deter the citizens from expressing their view on the need to call a referendum,” Gazivoda said.

Reports of attacks included petitions being torn apart, tables overturned and volunteers vilified as “homophobes” and “clerical fascists.” One man set fire to posters and informational materials placed on a table, resulting in a volunteer suffering burns in his hands while trying to extinguish the fire. Over 50 attacks across Croatia were reported to the police, mostly in Zagreb and Rijeka.

The group, however, has received substantial support from parliamentarians from all parties and all the major religious communities, including the Croatian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, the Serbian Orthodox Church, Protestant Christian denominations, and the Muslim community.

“Despite, on one hand, the hooligan attacks, condemned by the Croatian Helsinki Committee, and on the other, the attempts by the ruling administration to discourage the citizens from exercising their right and expressing their opinion, the aim of the civil initiative, 'In the Name of the Family,' is to make sure that the citizens of Croatia have their opportunity to engage in an act of direct democracy and determine the legal and value framework for the issues of marriage, family and adoption of children,” Gazivoda said in a statement.

“We are satisfied that the laws and the Constitution of Croatia guarantee the protection of civil and human rights of all citizens of the RoC, irrespectively of their nationality, religious affiliation or sexual orientation. The ‘comrades’ of the SDP currently in power (they are the heirs of the League of Communists of Croatia) have turned the country into a semi-totalitarian regime where democratic rules apply only when you adhere to the ideology of the ruling parties,” wrote pro-life campaigner Josip Horvaticek in La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana.

“A very positive outcome is, however, that for the first time there has been a categorical departure from the submissive and fatalistic attitude followed until now by the Croatian man-of-the-street. Thanks to the stimulus given by the lay Catholic leaders of [In the Name of the Family], Croatians are now ready to battle in defence of the family as the lifelong communion between a man and a woman to have and educate children.”

  croatia, european union, same-sex 'marriage'

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