Slovenian citizens voted against granting the same status to same-sex and heterosexual unions in a referendum on December 20.
A yes vote would have established Slovenia as the first former Yugoslavian country to adopt legislation guaranteeing equal rights for gay couples. However, the indications are that turnout was high among opponents of same-sex marriage, while many who would have voted in favour stayed at home.
According to preliminary data issued by the State Election Commission after 99% votes had been counted, 63.4% of voters were against and just 36.9% for marriage equality.
On March 3, the Slovenian parliament passed amendments to the Marriage and Family Relations Act, which grant equal status to same-sex and heterosexual unions.
The referendum was called after a church-backed group named “It is About Our Children” collected the 40,000 signatures needed to request a referendum on the law. Almost any law passed by the parliament in Slovenia can be tested with a referendum.
The result on December 20 was similar to that of Slovenia’s first referendum on the issue in 2012. According to the preliminary data, 619,600 of Slovenia’s 1.7mn eligible voters participated in the referendum, a turnout of 36%, some 6% higher than in 2012.
This meant the referendum quorum, that requires 20% of the electorate to vote against in order to reject the legislation on gay marriage, was exceeded by more than 40,000 votes.
As Slovenian Press Agency (STA) reported, a detailed look at the results shows that turnout among supporters of marriage equality was slightly lower than in 2012 while the number of those voting no exceeded the total no vote in 2012 by over 100,000.
Overall, only 13 of the 88 electoral districts voted in favour, of which the vast majority were in urban areas, STA said. However, in Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana the majority of voters were against the law.
This is despite the capital’s reputation as a gay friendly city. The Ljubljana Gay and Lesbian Film Festival founded back in 1984, making it the oldest gay and lesbian film festival in Europe.
Prime minister Miro Cerar and other top government officials have also spoken out in favour of marriage equality, and urged the population to turn out and vote.
However, conservative circles in Slovenia seemed to be more motivated to vote. The main opponent was the Catholic Church, which launched the no campaign.
The highest no-vote was in Ribnica in south-central Slovenia, which has long had a reputation as the country’s most conservative area. The no vote there topped 82%.