Alas – they chose ‘ZA’

Well, it was really no surprise. The Croatian referendum passed. Heterosexual marriage is now enshrined in the constitution.

A quick survey of the international press, and you may think that Croatians were asked to vote on gay marriage. They weren’t. The question posed by the referendum was:

Do you believe that marriage is between a man and a woman?

65% of voters agreed that, yes ‘ZA’, marriage is a purely heterosexual institution. And why wouldn’t they? This is a predominantly Catholic country. Many people may have found the whole question absurd. Of course a marriage is between a man and a woman? What else could it be? A man and a goat? A man and his job? Ne razumijem pitanje! But fewer than 40% of eligible voters thought it was a question worth getting out of bed to answer. Fifty million kuna is a lot of money to spend on what is, really, a semantic question (as my Croatian teacher called it).

But all of that is fine. You can have all the big heterosexual marriage cake you like and eat it too – just don’t put it in the fucking constitution.

How did this happen, and what does it mean?

Go back a few years and we find that Croatia, during EU preparations, wasn’t too confident that its citizens would agree at referendum to enter the EU. So they removed the threshold stipulations. That’s right, ladies and germs. You could call a referendum in this country, have two people turn out to say yes and one person to say no and it would pass. And it would enter the constitution. The Catholic Church and its puppet “In the Name of the Family” were incredibly smart to use this against the government.

Now that the constitution is going to say that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, it will be difficult to change it, if not impossible. If, in the future, Croatia becomes suddenly and unexpectedly enlightened it will not be able to allow gay marriage through legislation without first going to plebiscite.

You may ask, as C did – “so, was gay marriage such a threat? Is it, like, impending or something?”

No. No, it is not.

Croatians did not go to the polls to vote on gay marriage. They went to vote on straight marriage. They spent their lazy Sunday afternoon going to their local high school to not change their laws at all nor any laws that are upcoming. They voted to ensure that gay marriage, which is not even the merest blip on the furthest horizon, will never be legal. Talk about paranoid.

If nothing else, two things have resulted as an outcome of this referendum:

1) People now realise that it is easier to change the constitution than to introduce and pass legislation. This is a direct result of fiddling with the laws to make the EU accession easier. This has to, and will, change.

2) The past six months of political campaigning has done much more for gay rights and visibility than years of protests and marches. LGBT spokespeople have been a common addition to TV and radio pieces and in the papers.

Anyway, it’s not all bad news. As I pointed out earlier, gay civil unions are almost certainly going to be legal soon. And Pula, Rijeka, Varaždin, Čakovec, Istria and Primorje-Gorski Kotar all voted ‘NO’. For which, Northern friends, I salute you.

If you’re interested in reading more about this, I recommend (but do not necessarily endorse) the following articles as a good starting point:
Croatia’s vote forbidding gay marriage: a sign of the rotten heart of Europe – The Guardian
Croatians vote to ban gay marriage – The Guardian
The Croatia marriage referendum: Expert analysis from Zagreb – Digital Journal

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Nat Newman

Nat Newman is an award-winning writer of short stories, content, podcasts, feature articles, drunk text messages and, soon, a novella.


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