The Slovenia Times

Family Law Struck Down

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Most opinion polls ahead of the referendum suggested the law would be endorsed in today's referendum, but they also projected a higher turnout than the actual 30%, which may be one of the reasons why only 45% backed the controversial piece of legislation today.

Out of the eight electoral units only the traditionally liberal-minded central Ljubljana voted yes, along with many of the urban districts in other electoral units. The highest percentage of opponents was in the northeastern Ptuj unit, where more than 64% voted no.

Satisfied that "fundamental values" have been preserved, AleŇ° Primc of the civil initiative that demanded the referendum said the vote showed that citizens "respect motherhood and fatherhood", a reference to the definition of family in the law as a "community of a child or children with one or two parents or guardians".

Similarly, the Archbishop of Ljubljana Anton Stres said that a majority of voters had recognised the "irreplaceable role of family" in life. The Catholic Church, along with the Muslim and Serbian Orthodox churches had publicly called on voters to reject the law, while the Lutheran Evangelical Church endorsed it.

The defeat of the law was also lauded by the coalition Democrats (SDS), New Slovenia (NSi) and People's Party (SLS), who like Primc played down the effect the rejection of the law would have on children's rights, which the pro-camp argued was the main asset of the law.

The family law, which would be a first comprehensive overhaul of family legislation in 35 years, was passed by parliament on 16 June 2011 after almost three years of debate which largely overlooked a number of far-reaching changes, notably with respect to protection of children, to focus on same-sex couples.

It was mainly the benefit of children that the pro-law camp highlighted as it regretted the defeat of the law. The camp that included opposition Positive Slovenia (PS), Social Democrats (SD) and the coalition Virant List, blamed the low turnout and "misrepresentations" by opponents for the outcome.

One of the issues in the final days of campaign was the suggestion made by the opponents that the law would allow gay couples to have children born by surrogate mothers abroad, although the family law does not deal with the issue and surrogacy is explicitly banned in the infertility treatment act.

Meanwhile both the pro- and the anti- camp called for a fresh debate to find a consensus on a new family law. Miha Lobnik of the Movement for the Family Law called on the ministry to draft a new law that would build on common ground shared by both opponents and supporters of the rejected legislation.

In response, Labour, the Family and Social Affairs Minister Andrej Vizjak said that his ministry would present "compromise solutions" in a year. Following the vote, parliament is prohibited for a year from passing legislation that would counter the referendum decision.

Vizjak attributes the result to the fact that the law had been pushed through parliament without a consensus, which is why it included good as well as bad solutions. "This was a mistake by the previous government and parliament," he said.

Asked about the Constitutional Court decision of several years ago which mandates that same-sex couples must be given the same rights as heterosexual couples, Vizjak said the court's decision would have to be implemented somehow but since parliament cannot do anything for a year it is questionable how to do that.

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