Croatia: Sparks Fly As Referendum Bans Same Sex Marriage

Celebrations for Croatia's referendum on  constitutional definition of marriage  Photo: Aljazeera

Celebrations for Croatia’s referendum on
constitutional definition of marriage
Photo: Aljazeera

The issue of same sex marriage has been hot and deeply divisive throughout the world for quite some time. Some countries have managed to win the day, as it were, and declare same sex marriages legal. But all have had to deal with allowing social conscience on the issue to develop or to face itself in this war between traditional upbringing and modern demands of free society.  Some countries are still struggling to come to terms with the demands of modern society of freedoms, including gay marriages, and this does not make them bad countries nor rife with homophobia. All persons have a right to their beliefs and no person has the right to point a damning finger at anyone who has a different belief (unless, of course, a belief entails the right to commit crimes…).

While some of the world’s media, politicians, sociologists, academics…ordinary people may be (and some already are) tempted to portray Croatian people and its predominantly Roman Catholic church as homophobes because they just voted against same-sex marriage, many will pay humanly due note and thought and consideration similar to the contents of just-released Pilling Report (Church of England) in the UK, which in its recommendations on Page 150 says:

No one should be accused of homophobia solely for articulating traditional Christian teaching on same sex relationships.”

Regardless of anyone’s opinion on the issue of gay-marriage, a certain history was made in Croatia yesterday, on December 1, 2013. Referendum was held on the question: “Are you for the inclusion into the Constitution the provision that marriage is a union between a man and a woman?” Voters were to circle either “Yes” or “No”. The discussion on the referendum had bitterly divided Croatia, many pressure groups were formed on both sides of the debate, the government became a pressure group for “No” vote, the referendum was labelled as “fascism in action” by several journalists and public figures, threats were made to individuals who stood behind the referendum organising citizens’ group “In the name of the family” … a great deal of horrible name-calling and accusations happened, so horrible and utterly unjustified were some that I choose not to repeat them here.

In all this it is most important to keep in mind that Croatian society is still deeply divided when it comes to practicing or being formed by Christianity or religious teaching as multitudes of former communists hold high public positions or socially important jobs and they would be the last caste on earth to pause and consider non-judgmentally the mindset of those who are brought up to believe in Christian teaching that comes and came to them via the church. UK, or other countries where communism never ruled would not have that problem to the same degree even though many there are disbelievers or non-believers.

On Sunday 1 December, Croats voted overwhelmingly in favour of defining marriage in the constitution as a “union of a man and a woman”.  Almost 66% voted in favour of this and almost 34% against. The turnout was 37.84% of those eligible to vote in Croatia.

Such as weak turnout could mean that majority of Croatian voters are either not interested in the issue or are still examining their conscience regarding the matter, or both. But, the voter turnout for EU membership referendum in January 2012 was also relatively dismal and that did not stop Croatia from becoming EU member state – such is Croatia’s law on referendums (a handful of voters can turn up and the results are valid!).

So, this practically means that, for now, Croatian Constitution will be amended to ban gay marriage.

But, it also means that a convincing majority in Croatia is obviously not afraid of Sodom and Gomorrah, after all, despite the fact that they’ve been intimidated with it by the media, politicians and numerous opinion-makers for the “vote for” camp.

It also means that a convincing majority in Croatia are not “stuporous”, “human rights deniers”, “Nazis”, “Fascists” as the “vote against” aggressive camp, including government ministers, had labelled those who would vote for the change to the Constitution.

This pathetic mud-slinging, anger, portrayals of people continue as the referendum has well and truly closed.  Temperaments run high, sparks of defamation fly almost everywhere one looks. While president Ivo Josipovic reacted to the referendum result by articulating his hopes that they will not continue dividing the nation, in the same breath he states: “the results are very disappointing although not surprising!”

I do so wish Jopsipovic would keep his mouth closed on the issue since he evidently does not know how to mend divisions among people in sensitive and respect-all ways. When it comes to democratic voting nothing is disappointing to a nation, it is merely the picture of the sum of democratic, individual, thought.

In my previous post on the issue of this referendum I was most concerned about the government’s interference and pressure – such strategies can backfire terribly and I believe the government has done more damage than good here.

In fact the government’s interference had poured tonnes of fuel into what turned out to be campaign and opinion anarchy that often witnessed atrocious trampling on human rights (of both or either side) and human dignity.

Croats vote in referendum on marriage 1 December 2013   Photo: Stole Lasic

Croats vote in referendum on marriage
1 December 2013 Photo: Stole Lasic

It is done!

Voters who voted in the referendum are not representative in number of the Croatian nation by a fairly long stretch. Had the government and politicians steered out from pre-referendum public debates and hot-air, or at least not have been so hatefully oppressive, the likelihood is that voter turnout would have been much higher. And, gay right to marriage would not have been discriminated against, even if the apparent discrimination may not have been, or was not the focus for voting “Yes” or purposefully pursued. After all, this is the 21st Century and civil and democratic societies recognise and acknowledge the fact that we are all equal when it comes to access to fundamental social forms of life such as marriage is.

It is now the responsibility of the governing politics to sort out legally as soon as possible the rights of same-sex community that have been withheld from it, keeping in mind that the European Human Rights court and the Croatian Constitutional court protect its family life. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. What else did we expect? The whole campaign for same-sex marriage was littered with attacks towards people’s traditional beliefs and the church. There was no respect from the get-go for anything and anyone that does not tote the party line. You’re either for gay marriage or a hateful bigot who wants to see everyone but Catholics burn, apparently. Many people who might have been on the fence about the issue, turned against same-sex marriage because of the government’s tactics. The government and their Yugonostalgic media cronies are definitely doing more damage than good in every way possible. Such a shame that our government doesn’t have the same passion for fixing social, political and economic problems stemming from as far back as WWII, as they do for so-called social justice.

  2. There is no doubt in my mind: the government pretended to support gay rights to marriage and went about to create a situation where votes would go against it. It is just simply too awful and I still do not know why that government is still there. Some might say that nothing better could be said for the opposition but they did not go about calling the referendum terrorism, fascism…

  3. Paul Santo says:

    If the government legalizes other form of unions, such as de facto marriage, then much progress would be made with this

  4. Those who voted against gay marriage are still under the influence of the beliefs society has taught them in the past and they cannot be hated nor criticized for it. I like the Pilling Report references to this point.

  5. Michelle R. says:

    I have been here in Croatia often and I have never seen any homophobia, and for all the calls of fascism I have never heard anyone make an antisemitic comment, only anti Serbian comments when Serbians cross the line again with their territorial ambitions, Nationalism does not equal fascism or nazism. This is a beautiful land and a courageous one and why should Croatians not feel proud of it. Yet it seems the Serbian propaganda machine which ignores that Serbia can’t even have a gay pride parade without violence wants to use this issue to get back to call people Ustasha. Croatia treats its minorities with respect. By the way I am for gay rights, but Croatians are more traditional than the US, and even in the US there was problems with gay marriage acceptance in the very democratic state of California.

    • Thank you Michelle – couldn’t agree more.

    • Thank you Michelle. There are many malicious comments about Croatia in the media all over the world. Those comments are influenced by official policy of the countries that have never accepted Croatia’s independence. When you read them you may have the impression that Croatia was a nazi state which occupied Germany and brought A.H. to power and not vice versa. Millions of tourists visit our country every year and never place any serious complaint. The problems with Serbs will stop once British policy stops backing them up along with their project of Greater Serbia. For the moment gay marriages are taken as pretext to repeat all the insane accusations. Btw., I think that gay unions are about to be legalised within next few weeks or sooner.

    • orbitalone76 says:

      Looks like we visited two different Croatia’s Michelle.. maybe it’s been cleaned by now, but I took pictures of the homophobic graffiti that was scrawled on the walls before Split’s first LGBT pride parade.

      Or when I attended this private party that erupted in chaos after gay bashers entered–iskoraka-/20858/

      I can also add my own story of being knocked into by skinheads walking down Tkalkciceva one evening minding my own business, …

      • Sorry to hear about your experiences orbitalone76, similar incidents occur everywhere in the world and they are individual. We all grow together

      • orbitalone76 says:

        Ina, you’re deflecting. I’m not talking about the rest of the world. I’m talking about Croatia. Michelle said she had never seen homophobia in Croatia. I gave her visual proof.

      • You did, but that proof is not universal, and you cannot judge everyone by some examples besides this site is not a court house and if someone has not seen it that’s just as good as when someone has seen it. Why, Croatia is no different to any other country in this sense so please do not try and make it as if it is.

  6. Eine schöne Woche wünschen wir. Gruß, Wolfgang

  7. The real issue for me is whether the people can determine their own path. I am in favor of more direct democracy. I would rather that the people decide the nature of their society than some politicians and an activist supreme court.

    How do we empower the people to make more decisions in the future?

    • Referendums are a good way Zeljko, only people need to say “Shut up” to the government etc when they start interfering – to achieve that education is needed. I think Croatia is going to see more referendums because obviously things are not right with the way the government’s performance is assessed by the people. Switzerland is well known for referendums – I think they’ve had 4 in the past year. Such will be the path I think all until a new generation gets a chance at governing. This latest referendum is significant because it was moved and organised by people, it has done a great deal to empower and encourage the people in doing something regardless of the fact that the results are not to the liking of many

    • orbitalone76 says:

      If there was a referendum to allow women to vote in the early 1900s in the US it would have never passed. If there was a referendum in the 1950s to not separate children by race when going to school, it would have never passed.

      Just because something or someone is democratically elected, doesn’t make that thing or person morally correct.

      And when you have massive lobbying groups with huge amount of money and power is it really organized “by the people”

      It seems like Croatia is having their “Tea Party” moment.

      • Thank you orbitalone76, Tea Party moment or not, referendums come from the people and whether politics are behind or not I believe that when “alone in the polling booth”, away from prying eyes, they become their self, their conscience for at least a fraction of a second, that plants seeds for change if not fruit straight away

  8. Excellent post Ina, as always. Now, how can the electorate be drawn to the ballot box? What will it take? I understand the degree of apathy, but how will they overcome it? I can’t help but wonder if the next referendum issue should be, “Are you for the inclusion into the Constitution the provision that every eligible voter is required, by law, to cast his or her vote either in person or by proxy in any and all referendums and elections?”

    • I like your thinking on getting more people to vote Ana but I think people will vote in greater numbers if say there was a law defining the minimum number of voters needed…in Australia voting is compulsory and I happen to like that even if one ends up with some “Donkey Votes”, these are not significant … Next Referendum: Vukovar & Cyrillic PLEASE – well on the way then as therealamerocro suggested above: Lustration! Plenty to do still in Croatia to achieve Democracy in full and achieve the goals Croats aspired to in 1990!

  9. The problem with the Phillip report excerpt is that slavery too is a belief held in the Bible and therefore was a part of Christian teachings in the past. Maybe one day (soon I hope), certain people can come to understand that discriminating against the gay community is on par with what slavery was in the past. It’s one human suppressing the legal rights of another because they are ‘different’. Simple as that. And i think the Church does need to take the responsibility in moving its constituents away from believing that being gay is a sin and should be cured. Science has proved otherwise.

    The other problem I see with our ability to have referendums (a great idea if used like they do in Iceland), is that when a majority votes against a basic, legal right for a minority, ofcourse the majority will win. This is not democracy. It is totalitariaism. And that’s what I am disapointed in…. that we couldn’t recognise it for what it was….especially having lived through it for all these many decades under communism. I am not gay, nor religious, nor a communist sympathiser. But I do believe in fairness for all. And if the referendum was worded in a way that protected the word “marriage” for (christian) heterosexuals while allowing the same legal rights to same-sex couples, then that would have been a non-homophobic referendum. But I’m afraid that what we witnessed on the 1st of December was driven by fear – fear to legitimise the gay community by giving them the same rights of union that we enjoy; and fear of them wanting the right to have/adopt children next.

    • I believe Anna Pazin what the Pillip Report meant is to seek understanding for the fact that if someone has been brought up in a certain way and that someone has formed strong beliefs then we need to respect those beliefs and work together to change them. Surely, if community opinion change is sought, because that community actually votes and votes change laws, then all involved should respect and understand and tolerate each other while achieving change – can’t charge like a bull…but I do think that gay persons have a right to access to all social forms of community living, which includes marriage if that is how individuals wish to “crown”their union. I think progress will be made in this but I also respect and recognise that those that are against come from a different place of social nurturing, which was widespread through history, recent history for this, and they need the time and support to change, not being portrayed as fascists, terrorists etc. Don’t achieve anything positive by calling people names they do not deserve.

  10. therealamericro says:

    Hopefully this referendum, and the entire organizational infrastructure that organized it, will push for the most important referendum in Croatia, to ensure Croatia has a sovereign future not beholden to foreign centers of power and not obsessed with Croatia’s 2nd rate mafia state neighbor, Serbia, and that is a referendum on passing a lustration law identical to that which was passed and enforced in Eastern Germany within FR Germany after the fall of the Berlin wall.

    It is not just the security apparatus that needs to be cleaned (unfortunately, generous Western financing and shady NGO financing and lobbying ensured that the security apparatus would be restaffed with UDBa and Yugoslav degenerates in 2000 with their support of the wartime KOS operative Stipe Mesic), but the media, universities, civil service and state-owned companies, as was the case in E Germany (and Poland, and the Czech Republic).

    Work on a Lustration Law referendum needs to start today. It will force a debalkanization and deyugoslavization of Croatian politics and society – meaning a democratization of Croatian politics and society.

    • Oh yes, bravo, therealamericro! Lustration Referendum! Given the way both government and opposition fail to tackle central issues to Croatia’s sovereignty and democracy referendums are the only way to go in achieving results. This one marriage is a great one because it arose from the people, the one on bilingual signage in Vukovar that is in the pipeline with collection of signatures is also another great one – issues placed on agenda by people… and so Lustration will be the greatest of the all – I believe! Hope I see action on that past soon 😀

    • orbitalone76 says:

      This obsession that “because it was democratically chosen, it must make it right” is disturbing. Morsi in Egypt was democratically, elected… looked what happened to him.

      Slavery was in the US constitution. Blacks and Women not being able to vote were part of the US constitution. All through democracy.

      Sometimes the government has to step up.. just like when the Supreme Court desegregated US public schools (if it was up to a referendum it wouldnt have passed)

      or when President Lyndon Johnson in the 1960s signed the Voting Rights Act making it illegal to have people (mostly poor southern blacks) to take tests before they could vote. If that was put to a referendum, it would have failed, and poll taxes and tests would be legal

      Or just this past summer when the US Supreme Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional

      This referendum was purely political. Frankly Croatia is not advanced enough in gay civil rights to warrant such an over-response from the Catholic Church.

      I’d still like to know how a gay marriage threatens a straight marriage. International HETEROSEXUAL superstars like Britney Spears and Kim Kardashian who have 72 or 96 hour marriages, isn’t that the real threat?

      • Yep orbitalone76 – the politicians stuffed it up, not the people so please do not unload your anger on everyone, Croatians in their droves are advanced enough, but hey church everywhere has a say not just in Croatia

  11. I’m sure by now you know where I stand on this. Why it’s a matter of political vote makes me scratch my head. Who is anyone hurting by having a same sex partner?

  12. Michael Silovic says:

    The real tragedy here is not that the SS marriage agenda failed but we failed in a way that could have changed Croatia image as a progressive new country with equality.We could have put a new face on Croatia to the world and show the world that we are a new progressive country that cares about all people and moving forward in a dynamic way that would have opened our country up to all who respect our people and country.Sometimes there are those out there that do more harm then good when they do not look at the bigger picture.In either event gay or straight we all need to show respect to those who are different in their lifestyles then other because we are all Croats First.~ Za Dom Spremni~!

  13. therealamericro says:

    Heads up readers, another Yugoslav ultra-nationalist socialist parading as a lipstick liberal is spewing bile and hate speech on

    Note the comparison to “Seig Heil.”

    • orbitalone76 says:

      The whole Nazi Germany comparison should have been left out of the article and was inflammatory , however I agree with most of the articles contents.

      Wasting money on referendums on culture-war/social issues instead of tackling economic issues hurts everyone.

      I see it here in the US all the time. States wanting to ban Sharia Law. Sharia Law is already illegal! States trying to make abortion all but illegal. 40 attempts by the US House to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They failed every time.

  14. therealamericro says:

    Statement by the Rabbinical Centre of Europe (RCE) regarding the Referendum in Croatia

    This statement is written on the occasion of the national referendum to
    define marriage in Croatia as the union of man and woman. This definition of marriage is fully compatible and consistent with the teachings of the Jewish religion. In this context we fully support the civil initiative “On behalf of the family” which launched the referendum.

    We are also very disturbed at reports that some have compared this pro-marriage initiative with the Nazi regime and the ideology of fascism. We consider these statements to be inappropriate and insulting to the memory of millions of innocent victims.

    • Yes therealamericro, everything in Croatia the communist government and its cronies don’t like is portrayed as Nazi or fascist…must be last days are near for them, let’s push them to the brink and over it

  15. Amazing and Thank you for writing which is quite good and best wishes always, and greetings

  16. A couple of months ago I read your article on Henry Makow’s website. I haven’t read anything about the referendum there yet, and I’m sure he’d be glad to hear about the results.

    All of best.

  17. There is far too much balance in this article. What has happened here is a crime amongst democracy. and this is how future generations will view it. The quintessence of democracy is empowerment to the people, voting in such a way that disenfranchises a minority from their homeland is defeating democracy.

    The whole argument that there is no homophobia in Croatia is absolute trash. “First LGBT pride in Split took place on 11 June 2011. The pride was not successful as the security was not strong enough to prevent incidents, and as a result of that the activists had to be led to safety, and several hundred anti-gay protesters were arrested, so the pride had to be cancelled.” Source: . It is here that you can clearly see that there are droves of people being unashamedly homophobic. This does not happen in every country of the world, what a falsehood. There are countries that are tolerant and are ahead of Croatia.There is no such threat to pride marches in the UK, I have lived in the UK, Australia and Croatia for more than 3 years in each. The only place where I have heard of pride marches being cancelled owing to violence and disrepute is Croatia. Croatians have every right to a belief, as all are humans and equal, but they do not have a right to violence against a minority as is clearly depicted in the above video. This is barbaric and the hallmark of an uncivilised society.

    • Sorry Jamenka, but I think you might have confused the latest – it was in Serbia that pride march was cancelled recently, Croatia has held them for a couple of years now as far as I follow the media etc. Your video is from 2011 so I wonder why you didn’t provide a link for the 2013 pride march in Zagreb? But yes, other countries are far ahead in holding pride marches, in Australia they started 30 years ago and are held dearly by the community. As to homophobia, regretfully it does exist everywhere and hopefully things will get better, but like anywhere else, people need to time to see

  18. Sadly, Homophobia exists. If those who believe it is against the unwritten rules that underlie and are inherent to the fabric of society are conservative and or hold political office…things won’t change until people&politicians personally experience the neg – I appreciate all your visits! Have a Happy New Year

  19. Ma’am that is a very well written article you have posted here, overall I think I agree with your assessments so now I am going to state what I think about the issue then you give me your opinion please, because I do value it. I am a fundamentalist Christian by my faith and beliefs. My wife only had one brother whom she was very close to growing up, they were two years apart in age. Turns out he was gay, he didn’t want to be, he knew that by Scripture that it is a sin, but the guy was biologically, chemically gay. The guy was born that way it was not something he could help being. He tried dating girls but that was distasteful to him. In these situations it is my Christian belief that a person must then stay celibate and not commit the sin. But in our so called modern society people refuse to be told no about anything so we live our lives by our lust. David was a very good person in all respects and he is missed very much. He died in 1992 of aids at the age of 28. Should he and those like him have the right to marry in a free society, my answer is still yes though personally, morally I wish none would partake in the gay lifestyle because I do believe it is a sin and I do not want anyone to be condemned at their Judgement.

    • Stories like that of your brother-in-law oldpoet56 are many just as there are many of similar tragedies (albeit in a different context) around us. Marriage is not a human right under relevant laws or conventions but a right to having a family is. I see that gay people come from families just as heterosexual people do. I believe that gay people have a right to a legally binding union just as others do, whether it’s called a marriage or something else is another question and a lot rests upon what “marriage” represents. I believe that there are other instances apart from sexual orientation where marriage is not permitted by current laws…Christianity teaches us that sins are to be forgiven and gay people can love God just as much as heterosexual people. A free society, a modern society should perhaps re-define marriage? We are stuck with teachings that do not fit the way we have evolved as a society and that is sad in my view. Marriage does not necessarily mean creating a family but it necessarily must mean commitment to one another because children may come and go their own way and the couple remains in old age almost as they were at the beginning: two people in love, supporting each other. So yes, when I look at marriage like that I have absolutely nothing against gay marriage. It’s a different marriage sexually – but that is all and sex should not rule who we truly are. I see gay people as someones son, daughter, sister, brother, mother, father, grandfather, grandmother…that says a great deal I think.


  1. […] religion, but were poisoned by communist laws and social norms, were also among those who voted in the referendum of 2013, which amended the Constitution to define marriage as a union exclusively ”between a man and […]

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