Croatian voters have gone to the polls today (01 December) to vote on a referendum which will constitutionally ban same-sex marriage.
Catholic-backed conservative groups, including Croatia’s HDZ party, have demanded the country’s constitution be amended to maintain the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman.
The referendum will ask: ‘Do you agree that marriage is matrimony between a man and a woman?’
If the majority of Croations back a ‘yes’ vote, it will mean a de-facto ban on same sex marriage within the country.
Hundreds of LGBTI protesters marched through Zagreb yesterday (30 November) to fight against the anti-gay referendum.
Sanja Juras, one of the protesters at the march, said: ‘We urge voters… to protect minority rights so that no-one in Croatia becomes a second-class citizen.’
Opponents of the referendum also include prominent public figures, human rights groups and the Croatian government.
Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic also argued against the referendum, saying it threatens the rights of people to their own happines.
Croatia’s Cardinal Josip Bozanic disagrees, saying: ‘Marriage is the only union enabling procreation. This is the key difference between a marriage… and other unions’.
Over 700,000 people – over 20% of the country’s population of 4.4 million – have already backed the controversial referendum by signing a petition drawn up by anti-gay Catholic group ‘In the Name of the Family’.
Despite the support of the referendum, attitudes towards LGBTI people in Croatia are slowly becoming more tolerant.
Zagreb’s first gay pride parade, held in 2002, saw many LGBTI people being attacked by right-wing extremists. Since then, parades have become more popular in the city.