Zagreb (AFP) – A strong majority in staunchly Catholic Croatia voted Sunday to outlaw same-sex marriage in a referendum sought by a Church-backed group but strongly opposed by rights groups, nearly complete official results showed.

A total of 65.76 percent of voters said they wanted to amend the constitution to include a definition of marriage as a “union between a woman and a man”, according to results from almost 99 percent of polling stations released by the electoral commission.

Croatia’s current constitution does not define marriage.

Passions ran high in Croatia ahead of the vote, with the Church-backed “yes” camp citing the defence of traditional family values and their opponents accusing them of discrimination against gays.

However, three hours before voting ended, the turnout was a rather low 26.75 percent, the electoral commission said.

Under Croatian law, a referendum does not require a majority voter turnout to be valid.

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A doctor from Zagreb’s main maternity hospital holds …
A doctor from Zagreb’s main maternity hospital holds a badge in Zagreb on November 29, 2013, with a …

The centre-left government, rights activists and prominent public figures had all spoken out against the measure.

But the recent unveiling of a government bill enabling gay couples to register as “life partners” sparked fears among conservatives in Croatia — which joined the European Union in July — that same-sex marriage would be next.

In May, a Church-backed group called “In the Name of the Family” collected almost 700,000 signatures seeking a nationwide vote on the definition of marriage.

“We showed that we know, like David fighting against Goliath, how to direct our small slingstones in the same direction,” the initiative’s leader, Zeljka Markic, told her cheering supporters in their electoral headquarters late Sunday.

“This time for the protection of marriage, and next time for something else of the same importance,” she added, without elaborating.

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Croatian gay rights activists hold signs reading “Stop …
Croatian gay rights activists hold signs reading “Stop fascism” and “I vote against” as hundreds mar …

The vote’s opponents denounced the referendum as discriminatory and warned it could pave the way for other conservative initiatives targeting minorities or on issues such as abortion.

Premier calls vote ‘sad and senseless’

Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic labelled the referendum “sad and senseless” and voiced hope it was the last vote on such an issue.

Analysts say economic troubles in the country — which has been hit by a long recession that has left many unemployed and frustrated — has boosted radicalism of all sorts.

“Today homosexuals are on the agenda, tomorrow it will be those who have bicycles, then people with dogs, Jews, we know how it goes,” warned Ilija Desnica, a man in his 60s who said he voted “no”.

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Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic arrives on …
Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic arrives on October 24, 2013 to attend a European Council mee …

“This is the entry of fascism through the back door.”

But the powerful Church urged its followers to vote “yes”, in a country where almost 90 percent of the population are Roman Catholics.

“Marriage is the only union enabling procreation,” said Croatia’s Cardinal Josip Bozanic in a letter read out in churches across the country.

“This is the key difference between a marriage… and other unions.”

The leader of the main opposition HDZ party, Tomislav Karamarko, echoed the view and stressed that “unfortunately, we are obliged to put into the constitution something which is natural.”

Explaining his decision to cast a “yes” ballot, voter Krunoslav Knezevic told AFP: “I’m a father of three children and that explains everything.

“Marriage is a union of a woman and a man designed so that children are born in it. I’m not certain that a same-sex couple can have children in a natural way,” he added ironically.

Despite Sunday’s result, attitudes towards gay rights have slowly become more liberal in Croatia.

When the country’s first Gay Pride parade was held in Zagreb in 2002, dozens of participants were beaten up by extremists.

But gay rights marches are now staged regularly, though still under heavy security. The issue is also discussed more openly in the media and homosexuals are less fearful of “coming out”.

In 2003 Croatia adopted a law recognising same-sex couples who have lived together for at least three years — although apart from official acknowledgement, the measure grants them few rights.

Sunday’s vote was the first citizen-initiated referendum since Croatia’s independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.


Croatian gay rights supporters hold a giant rainbow flag outside the parliament building in Saint Marko Square in Zagreb during a protest on November 30, 2013 on the eve of a constitutional referendum that could outlaw same-sex marriage

A doctor from Zagreb’s main maternity hospital holds a badge in Zagreb on November 29, 2013, with a slogan for a ‘Yes’ vote at Croatia’s December 1 referendum that could rule out same-sex marriage in the predominantly Catholic EU member

Croatian gay rights activists hold signs reading “Stop fascism” and “I vote against” as hundreds march in Zagreb during a protest escorted by police on November 30, 2013 on the eve of a constitutional referendum that could outlaw same-sex marriage

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic arrives on October 24, 2013 to attend a European Council meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels


  1. 1 Algeria
    2 Angola
    3 Benin
    4 Botswana
    5 Burundi
    6 Cameroon
    7 Comoros
    8 Egypt
    9 Eritrea
    10 Ethiopia
    11 Gambia
    12 Ghana
    13 Guinea
    14 Kenya
    15 Lesotho
    16 Liberia
    17 Libya
    18 Malawi (enforcement of law suspended)
    19 Mauritania
    20 Mauritius
    21 Morocco
    22 Mozambique
    23 Namibia
    24 Nigeria
    25 Sao Tome
    26 Senegal
    27 Seychelles
    28 Sierra Leone
    29 Somalia
    30 South Sudan
    31 Sudan
    32 Swaziland
    33 Tanzania
    34 Togo
    35 Tunisia
    36 Uganda
    37 Zambia
    38 Zimbabwe

    Asia, including the Middle East

    39 Afghanistan
    40 Bangladesh
    41 Bhutan
    42 Brunei
    43 Iran
    44 Kuwait
    45 Lebanon
    46 Malaysia
    47 Maldives
    48 Myanmar
    49 Oman
    50 Pakistan
    51 Palestine/Gaza Strip
    52 Qatar
    53 Saudi Arabia
    54 Singapore
    55 Sri Lanka
    56 Syria
    57 Turkmenistan
    58 United Arab Emirates
    59 Uzbekistan
    60 Yemen

    Two Asian/Middle Eastern countries are listed separately by the ILGA under the heading “Legal status of homosexual acts unclear or uncertain”:
    ◾In Iraq, there is no law against homosexual acts, but homophobic violence is unchecked and self-appointed sharia judges reportedly have imposed sentences for homosexual behavior.
    ◾In India, enforcement of the law against homosexual activity has been suspended by court action.


    61 Antigua & Barbuda
    62 Barbados
    63 Belize
    64 Dominica
    65 Grenada
    66 Guyana
    67 Jamaica
    68 St Kitts & Nevis
    69 St Lucia
    70 St Vincent & the Grenadines
    71 Trinidad & Tobago

    In the United States, anti-sodomy laws were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003, but they are still on the books in 13 states: Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia. Conservative state legislators refuse to repeal the laws and, in some cases, police still enforce them. Reportedly, in the past few years more than a dozen LGBT people were arrested for violating those laws, but the arrestees were freed because prosecutors won’t seek convictions based on defunct laws.


    72 Cook Islands
    73 Indonesia (Aceh Province and South Sumatra)
    74 Kirbati
    75 Nauru
    76 Palau
    77 Papua New Guinea
    78 Samoa
    79 Solomon Islands
    80 Tonga
    81 Tuvalu


    82 Northern Cyprus

    Also in Europe and worth mentioning but not on that list of countries with laws against homosexuality are:
    ◾Russia, which enacted a law in 2013 prohibiting any positive mention of homosexuality in the presence of minors, including online;
    ◾Ukraine, which has considered, but so far has not adopted a similar law against “gay propaganda.”
    ◾Moldova, which adopted and then repealed such a law in 2013

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