LGBTI equality and human rights in Europe and Central Asia

Slovakia’s fight for LGBTI equality

Slovakia’s referendum result provides a strong platform for future constructive discussion on same-sex partnerships, according to equality organisation ILGA-Europe.

It was announced on Sunday (8 February) that the referendum had not reached the required 50% voter threshold and was therefore invalid.

Despite attempts by anti-equality campaigners and various organisations (from both inside and outside Slovakia) to marginalise LGBTI families, the majority of the Slovakian public rejected their controversial tactics. Today’s result confirms that the electorate saw through the homophobic propaganda and were not willing to be part of a movement that discriminates against their fellow citizens. This statement at the ballot boxes can now be the catalyst for real change in Slovakia.

ILGA-Europe regrets that Slovakian authorities agreed that human rights issues affecting a minority group should be decided by a popular majority vote and was saddened to see that the referendum campaign was conducted in an atmosphere of animosity and confusion. As expected in a referendum campaign on rights of a minority that is subject to strong prejudice, there were many reported incidents of intolerant arguments, divisive statements and thinly veiled hate speech. For this reason, LGBTI activists and their allies distanced themselves from the campaign, in the hope that a more reasoned discussion could take place in the wake of the result.

Following last year’s constitutional amendment, marriage was already defined as a union between a man and a woman; this weekend’s vote was nothing more than a highly expensive symbolic gesture. “Now is the time to engage in an honest conversation on legal recognition for same-sex couples and their families.” said ILGA-Europe Executive Director, Evelyne Paradis.

“Family values are not exclusive to opposite-sex couples. LGBTI couples share these values and want to raise children in stable, loving relationships that are recognised. Respectful and sensible engagement between all sides on the issue would confirm this fact and show anti-equality campaigners that there is nothing to fear by allowing same-sex couples to be legally recognised.” continued Ms Paradis.

It is almost nine years since the neighbouring Czech Republic adopted a law on same-sex partnership. Only last month, the Austrian Constitutional Court opened up joint adoption rights to same-sex couples.

Paulo Corte-Real, Co-Chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board, commented: “ILGA-Europe encourages Slovakian policy makers to give serious consideration to recognising the partnerships of same-sex couples. As Prime Minister Fico recently acknowledged, public authorities have a duty to make practical things easier for LGBTI couples in Slovakia. This is a duty that should be acted on, sooner rather than later.”