The reaction of pro-LGTB friends and colleagues on social media around midnight this Saturday gone was one of relief. It was over. It was time to move on.
By this time, it had become clear the referendum on further limiting the rights of same-sex couples of Slovakia had been a big failure – and it was apathy that won the day: just 21.7% of registered voters turned out, when 50% were required for the results to count.
The Alliance for the Family, the group that pushed for the referendum, have, and will continue to, justify it as an attempt not to crush LGTB rights but to protect the family. A quick look at the questions that were on the voting papers soon reveals this to be rubbish, and that’s why we put “protection of the family” in quote marks up top: this is nothing more than thinly-veiled homophobia.
Question one: Do you agree that no other cohabitation of persons other than a bond between one man and one woman can be called marriage?
Question two: Do you agree that same-sex couples or groups should not be allowed to adopt and raise children?
Question three: Do you agree that schools cannot require children to participate in education pertaining to sexual behaviour or euthanasia if their parents or the children themselves do not agree with the content of the education?
Questions one and two are directly homophobic. All they do is limit LGTB rights to live their lives. How is the average family in X small town, comprised of man, woman and two children, going to be affected one way or t’other by an LGTB population’s ability to adopt a child if they so wish? I don’t believe in God, but I don’t mind if extremely religious people want to go to church. What happened to live and let live? And what happened to the constitutional court even being able to say these questions were legitimate?
The only question which perhaps has more right to get aired is question three. It raises a more thorny, and pertinent issue: how much influence should parents be allowed to have in their children’s sexual education (and in the case of euthanasia, education on more controversial topics) versus the educational institution their children are attending. Perhaps with just question three being put before the public, referendum turnout might have been different.
My view is that the Alliance for the Family went too far. There is evidence to suggest that in Slovakia there is support not just for question three, but also for questions one and two, that’s significantly wider than the 90% that voted “yes” to the 21.7% of voters who turned out. But on a snowy day in February, the resounding answer to the referendum was: who cares? Slovaks have bigger, better issues to worry about: unemployment, for example, which has an infinitely bigger impact on quality of family life than whether both parents are women. This referendum was, as several analysts on TV mentioned, a stand of tradition against more liberal ideas spreading from the western portion of the European Union. But it was clearly something of a pointless stand, when Slovakia has already made the decision to join (to its distinct economic benefit) the European Union, and when voting on making LGTB lives worse is not in any respect going to improve other lives, or salaries, or prospects.
So whilst I do accept that the reason this referendum failed was possibly because people simply did not care about it, rather than actively disagreeing with it, I still think the fact that it was rejected so emphatically is something Slovakia can celebrate. It is still (unlike neighbouring Hungary, where a similar referendum was successful) a place where gay, lesbian and bisexual people can live, have a family, and not feel discriminated against.
Supporters of the referendum’s questions, take heart. For one thing, if a lesbian chose to have artificial insemination in Slovakia, she could still, even if more than 50% of Slovakia had voted at the weekend, not have had her child taken away from her. And the failure of your referendum will have absolutely no impact on the quality of your family’s life. None whatsoever. There will just be, for perhaps half an hour, in one of the many lessons your child will have in its life, at one point over the ten years of their education, a reference made to the fact that homosexuals are people too, and deserve human rights just like anyone else.
The referendum did, it should be noted, have one positive aspect. It was one proposed by “the people” rather than “the state”. In that sense it was something to be applauded. Next time Slovakia mobilises in this way, I hope it’s just over a worthwhile issue.
And as a final point, devout followers of the Bible: here’s a link of an interesting article written by a Gay Christian. As you will see, the Bible does not condemn homosexuality, per se. It condemns lying with men in the same way as you would lie with a woman (Leviticus 18:22). It condemns homosexuality as wrong in the context of a fit of passion or lust for a man outside of marriage – as it condemns eating pork and having long hair as unnatural – but never once prohibits or frowns upon a loving, same-sex partnership.
Enough said, anyway. Just over 19% of Slovaks voted “yes” to the proposed questions. Let’s all carry on living our lives, perhaps with the acceptance that everyone else has the right to live their lives, too.