The Slovenes voted Sunday (25 Mar) against a new family law that included a controversial clause allowing same-sex couples to adopt children under the support of conservative and religious groups.
With nearly all ballots counted, the results showed that about 55 percent of voters rejected the law drafted by Slovenia's former center-left government and passed in June last year. About 45 percent supported it.
A lower-than-expected turnout of 30% helped the conservative naysayers in the country of some two million people, according to pollsters and a junior coalition partner.
‘We expected citizens would show more interest (in the code) and would cast their votes,’ Citizen's List party spokeswoman Polonca Komar told the STA news agency.
Pre-referendum opinion polls had predicted an outcome of about 60% in favour of the proposed measure.
Daliborka Lasic, a 39-year-old cook, expressed her disappointment about the law's rejection.
'I have lived in a lesbian relationship for 11 years but the child of my partner still cannot inherit after me,' she told Reuters. 'And what is the worst is that they could take the child away from me if anything were to happen to my partner.'
'I know that such a liberal law will never be passed by the new government,' she added.
The new law would have allowed gay couples to adopt the biological children of their partners, but not those of a third party. But with the law barred from going back to the parliament for 12 months, the previous Family Code, adopted in 1976 and amended several times when the country was still part of Yugoslavia, is now back into force.
Unlike its former Yugoslav neighbours Serbia and Croatia – where gays often face various abuses – the small Alpine nation is relatively tolerant of homosexuality and started allowing official registration of same-sex relationships in 2006.
But a conservative children rights group secured 42,000 signatures by February to challenge the new family law in a referendum, citing a breach of traditional family values. In a rare joint effort, Roman Catholic, Serbian Orthodox and Muslim communities also signed a petition, urging people to oppose the law.
The Parade, a rom-com about gay pride in Belgrade, has recently become a surprise hit, drawing hundreds of thousands viewers in all six ex-Yugoslav republics, but the referendum results reflect how homosexuality remains controversial in the region, and Slovenia in particular.
‘This referendum is a typical case of a cultural battle over who should decide about people and their destinies,’ Vlado Miheljak, a professor of social and political psychology at Ljubljana University, told AFP.