Slovenia becomes the first eastern European country to allow same-sex marriage

Last week, Slovenia – a former Yugoslav republic and a small country in the middle of Europe - has become the 21st nation, and the first Central European country, to grant full marriage rights to all of its citizens. On Tuesday, March 3, the Slovenian Parliament has passed an amendment redefining marriage as a union between two adults instead of "a man and a woman."

"This amendment defines marriage as a life-long community of two persons, regardless of their sex, eliminating the discriminative situation in force up to now," said Matej T. Vatovec, a United Left (ZL) legislator, when introducing the bill. After the Parliament voted 51 to 28 in favor of the changes Vatovec added enthusiastically, "thanks to the parliamentary support, Slovenia will become a truly tolerant and inclusive community. Today Slovenia is entering the 21st century."

Under the code, LGBT couples will be able to register their partnership and attain the same legal status as marriage concerning issues like property, inheritance and hospital visitation rights. The only exception concerns adoption. One partner will be able to adopt the child of the other, but a gay couple cannot jointly adopt a child. Still, the bill is a great step forward.

Supporters and well-wishers from all around the world, praised the Slovenian officials for passing the bill. "We commend the elected representatives of Slovenia for passing such historic legislation ensuring the nation’s LGBT citizens receive the rights they deserve, and we congratulate the LGBT activists and advocates who helped make this momentous day possible," said Ty Cobb, director of HRC Global.

The founders of Pink Week, a four-day LGBT travel experience, known as Matej and Mattej, said: 'We are absolutely delighted that Slovenia has become the first post-Communist country to legalize same-sex marriage. It is yet more proof that this beautiful country is now one of Europe's top destinations for LGBT travelers."

Centre-right opposition parties criticized the bill, claiming the same old argument of same-sex marriage undermining traditional family values.  During the session, couple thousand people gathered in front of the parliament to protest against the bill. The crowd announced the launch of a petition for a referendum to prevent the amendment from entering into force.

The threat of the referendum is fairly disturbing, since Slovenian lawmakers attempted to pass same-sex marriage once before in 2011. However, the right-wing group 'The Civil Initiative for the Family and Rights of Children', gathered just enough support to reject the bill a year later. According to Slovenia's legislation, a referendum on the implementation of a bill can be called if 40,000 citizens back such vote. Since the amendment was passed, the opposition has managed to gather more than 80,000 signatures.

At GLAAD we believe, this time the referendum is unlikely to succeed for two reasons. First, Slovenia has changed its law since 2012, and it now prohibits referendums on issues of human rights. And second, February 2015 poll surveyed that 59% of Slovenians support same-sex marriage while only 37% remain against. So even if the critics succeed in getting the popular vote, the outcome would probably be in favor of equal marriage for all.

Slovenia adopted the new law just after two other former Yugoslav republics adopted provisions that ban same-sex couples from marrying. The parliament of the Republic of Macedonia voted to deny marriage recognition to same-sex couples in January of 2015 by a vote of 72 to 4, and voters in Croatia adopted a similar ban in a referendum in December of 2013.