Mon, Feb 09, 2015 - Page 6 News List

Slovak vote turnout too low to back ban on gay marriage

BELOW EXPECTATIONS:While gay activists said the low turnout was a sign of support for gay marriage, opponents said having the vote was a success in itself

Reuters, PRAGUE

Slovaks did not turn out anywhere near the 50 percent of voters needed on Saturday to approve a referendum that would have strengthened the country’s ban on marriages and child adoptions by same-sex couples, voting numbers showed.

Votes counted from 99.9 percent of the central European country’s voting districts showed turnout of just 21.4 percent, the statistics office said, well below expectations.

The EU member does not allow gay marriages or civil unions, nor adoptions by same-sex couples.

The conservative movement that backed the referendum sought to make it more difficult to change those bans through legislation.

Social conservatives in Eastern European countries, including Hungary and Croatia, have been pushing back against what they see as overly liberal policies spreading eastward in the two decades since the EU expanded to include former Communist states.

About 90 percent of those who took part in the referendum voted “yes” to three questions: whether marriage can only be a union of a man and a woman; whether same-sex couples should be banned from adoptions; and whether children can skip classes involving education on sex and euthanasia.

Liberals, gay rights activists and some media outlets had advised voters to defeat the referendum by not taking part.

The very low turnout pleased the country’s gay community, which sees a better chance to push for change.

“The result shows that a campaign full of prejudice ... failed to mobilize people, which is very good news for Slovakia,” activist Lucia Plavakova told reporters. “The Slovak society seems ready for granting equality for gays and lesbians.”

The group behind the referendum, Aliancia Pre Rodinu, or Alliance for the Family, said the family is under threat with more countries, including Austria and the Czech Republic, allowing forms of same-sex unions, or child adoption by gay couples.

It said holding the referendum was a success in itself.

“The most important thing is that the family became the topic of the day and perhaps the topic of the year,” the alliance’s Anna Veresova told a television broadcast.

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