Leaders urge Croats to reject anti gay marriage referendum

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 28, 2013 7:41 AM

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatia's ruling center-left coalition urged citizens to reject Sunday's referendum on constitutionally defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman that has been supported by the conservative opposition and Roman Catholic groups.

Six ministers from the Social Democrat-led government posted a 40-second video clip on YouTube in which they explain why they will vote against it.

"I will vote for love, for a Croatia without divisions, and that means I will vote 'against'," Interior Minister Ranko Ostojic said in the video.

Parliament had to call the referendum after the Catholic group "In the Name of the Family" gathered more than 740,000 signatures in support of the vote.

Calls for the referendum grew after the government last year introduced sex education in schools, and then hinted it planned to grant rights to same-sex couples to treat them as if they were married, such as over next of kin status and inheritance, without allowing them to formally marry.

Government figures, including Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, have said from the start they disagreed with the referendum's demand and would vote against it.

Croatia, which joined the European Union in July, is a staunchly Catholic country and some 90 percent of its 4.4 million people say they belong to the Church. The EU leaves regulation of same-sex rights to each member state.

In a poll this week, 68 percent of those who have decided to vote said they would support the demand. There is no turnout threshold for the referendum to be valid and its results are binding.

Five other cabinet ministers, including one from the junior coalition partner, the liberal pro-business HNS party, appear in the clip.

Opponents of the referendum say it is discriminatory and anti-gay. Leaders of the conservative opposition HDZ party have supported the referendum demand.

The group that demanded the vote says it wants to make sure the definition of marriage is enshrined in the constitution so that it cannot be changed by amendments to the family law.

(Reporting by Zoran Radosavljevic; Editing by Alison Williams)