The Slovenia Times

Government Regrets, Church Happy


abour, Family and Social Affairs Minister Ivan Svetlik is disappointed, but he said the Constitutional Court's decision would be respected. He was very critical, however, saying that Slovenia would find itself in a "cultural blockade imposed by the Church".

He moreover expressed belief that the Constitutional Court should have shown more respect for the articles of the Constitution referring to the protection of human rights and basic freedoms, which are equal for all with regard to their personal circumstance and may not be restricted by law.

"Here human rights of homosexual citizens are in the foreground, as their homosexual orientation undoubtedly counts as personal circumstance," said the minister.

He underlined that the family law levelled the legal position of homosexuals with the legal position of other citizens, while the currently valid law on same-sex partnership registration fails to give them a number of rights.

Ljubljana Archbishop Anton Stres on the other hand is happy with the decision that was announced today. This means that the Church's efforts are not in contrast with the Constitution and basic human rights, nor are they at odds with the basic principle of tolerance.

Ales Primc, the head of the civic group demanding the referendum, is also satisfied with the decision. "We are very happy to be able to resume the collecting of signatures for the referendum after it was interrupted with the constitutional review."

The group has already collected 27,700 of the 40,000 signatures needed for the referendum to be called. The constitutional review was demanded by centre-left parties in parliament, which argued that rejection of the law would create unconstitutional conditions.

Primc said that the group would resume collecting signatures after the holidays on 3 January. "The decision of the Constitutional Court confirms our years-long efforts for the respect of human rights and especially children's rights. They are the weakest link of our society and thus need the greatest care, protection and attention."

He underlined that the court's decision was about the meaning of motherhood and fatherhood for the child and the child's need for a loving mother and a loving father.

A liberal group headed by gay rights activist Mitja Blazic campaigning against the referendum meanwhile said in a press release that it respected the court's decision, expressing hope that the referendum campaign will respect the dignity of all citizens.

The gay-rights group moreover pointed out that the pro-family group's definition of family, which entails a mother and a father, excluded over a half of Slovenia's families. "As many as 53% of children are born in extramarital partnerships, 25% of all families are single-parent families."

The Justice Ministry regretted the decision of the Constitutional Court in a press release, saying however that the court's instructions to the legislator to make within one year changes it deems necessary for the protection of human rights were an important message to the new National Assembly.

The office of the Human Rights Ombudsman said in a press release that it respected the decision, saying that the tight 5:4 vote indicates that the decision was a hard one for the Constitutional Court. It regretted that the referendum will stop the implementation of several other provisions.

Amnesty International Slovenije meanwhile expressed concern that the implementation of the law would be delayed even further and homosexual couples and their children would continue to be subjected to human rights violations.

Most parliamentary parties said that they were likely to take part in the referendum campaign. While the main two advocates of the family law, Liberal Democrats (LDS) and Zares, are no longer in parliament, the Democrats (SDS) and the People's Party (SLS), which object the law, have gotten a new ally in the new National Assembly in New Slovenia (NSi).

However, the biggest parliamentary party, Positive Slovenia, supports the law and so do the third and the fourth biggest parties, the Social Democrats (SD) and the Virant List, respectively. The Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) also supports the law, but will probably not take an active role in the campaign.

The broad-based legislation unveiled by the Labour, Family and Social Affairs Ministry in 2009 includes many widely welcomed and much needed updates to the existing 1976 law, among them the prohibition of corporeal punishment and the establishment of a children's rights ombudsman. Moreover, decisions on children's rights in custody disputes would be transferred from social centres to courts.

But the focus of debates immediately turned to gay couples getting the same rights as heterosexual couples. That would have allowed gay couples to adopt children, which proved to be a call to arms for conservative pro-family groups backed by the Catholic Church, and overshadowed all other aspects of the law.

After lengthy debates, the ministry settled for a compromise solution that would allow gay couples to adopt only each other's children that was passed by the National Assembly in June.


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