Slovakia's referendum on homophobic discrimination has failed

This Saturday, February 7, 2015, Slovakia held a referendum that could have led to a significant step backwards in terms of tolerance and LGBT rights in the country. If successful, the referendum would have bolstered homophobic discrimination and undermine sexuality education. Fortunately, Slovak people stayed away from the ballots. Only 21.4% of eligible voters showed up, causing the referendum to fail.  

To be legally binding, turnout in the ballot must be more than 50 percent in the nation of 5.4 million people. There were seven referendums held, since Slovakia gained independence in 1993 after the split of Czechoslovakia. Only one of those, the referendum on the entry into the European Union, met the condition.

To take advantage of the 50% rule was a plan put together by the liberals and LGBT advocates from the beginning. Fearing the possible outcome of the referendum, Slovakian LGBT groups, led by Iniciatíva Inakosť, launched a portal (notgoing) where they encouraged people not to vote at all. Under the tagline "there are no right answers for bad questions", the group was sharing stories of prominent members of Slovak society condemning the referendum and giving the reasons why they are not going to vote. For example, Tomáš Borec, the Minister of Justice said "I am the father of the family, on Saturday I will attend a family program. This I consider to be my duty."

Slovakia, as a rather conservative and predominately Roman Catholic country, currently does not recognize same-sex partnerships, and defines marriage exclusively as a union between a man and a woman. The proposal would strengthen the already conservative status quo and make it hard for any progressive legislation in the future.

Slovak people were asked whether they agree with 3 statements. Those are:

  1. No other cohabitation of persons other than a union between one man and one woman can be called marriage.
  2. Same-sex couples or groups shall not be permitted to adopt and subsequently raise children.
  3. Schools shall not require children to participate in education in the area of sexual behavior or euthanasia if their parents or the children themselves do not agree with it.

The fourth question "Decent people have fallen prey to the system as the ÚS (the Slovak constitutional court) has forbidden them to voice their view of what the family is." was removed by the ÚS (the Slovak constitutional court).

Voters who did turn up overwhelmingly voted "yes" — 95, 92 and 90%, respectively — to the three proposed questions. The leader of the Christian organization Alliance za Rodinu (Alliance for Family), who initiated the referendum by gathering over 400,000 signatures (350,000 is the minimum to initiate the referendum), Anton Chromik, was satisfied with the results. He called the result a good base for the further actions and declared the fight not be over. He is planning to initiate a second referendum with the same goal after the required three year break period runs out.

The referendum, regardless of the results, sets a very wrong and dangerous example, in a region once torn by the nationalistic sentiments. Referendums are not meant to enable the majority to votes against the minority to be deprive of human rights. Since the EU allows each of the member state to decide on the issues of marriage and adoption, it is possible we see similar referendums in other countries in the near future.

Only 21.4% of eligible voters showed up, causing the referendum to fail.

People were encouraged to stay home and boycott the vote by the liberal and LGBT groups.

Iniciatíva Inakosť was the leader of the campaign.

Alliance for Family has gathered over 400,000 votes to force the vote.

Slovakia is a conservative and predominately Roman Catholic country. The referendum was supported by the Pope Francis.

Advertisements encouraging people to vote three times yes.

Alliance for Family and its leader Anton Chromik were satisfied with the results.