Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Pro-family petition gathers 750k signatures against homosexual civil unions

by Hilary White

ZAGREB, August 13, 2013 ( – Croatian Public Administration Minister Arsen Bauk has said that the bill being drawn up to grant homosexual partnerings the same legal rights as marriages will not call the unions “gay marriage” or “civil partnerships,” but “life partnerships”. Under the draft legislation, homosexual partners will be able to inherit property, receive the same social security and tax benefits as couples in natural marriages.

Bauk told the Zagreb newspaper Jutarnij List that the government is still considering whether the legislation will allow adoptions. Bauk said, however, that the bill will include provisions for “one member of the couple to adopt the biological child of the other, if the natural parent is unknown or no longer alive.”

Croatia, an overwhelmingly Catholic country, has long allowed lesbians to receive artificial insemination by anonymous sperm donors and, Bauk said, “it is now important that the State recognise this reality and gives guarantees even to the other mother.”

The government announced after the 2011 elections that creating same-sex civil unions would be a priority. In response, a grassroots coalition formed called, “In the Name of the Family,” who said their task is to promote “universal human values, as well as religious associations, communities and movements – all those who hold the view that marriage is a union between a man and a woman only.”

In June the government ignored constitutional rules for referenda, claiming that the nearly 750,000 signatures on a petition calling for a public vote on the issue failed to meet the requirements. This despite the fact that 3,760,000 citizens – of a total population of 4.3 million – were eligible to vote in the EU elections, meaning the petition represented about 20 per cent of the voting public. Croatia’s Referendum Act requires that petitioners secure the signatures of 10 percent of the electorate.

The government claimed, however, that for this referendum alone, the electorate exceeds 4,560,000 – “a number which almost certainly includes the deceased, ghosts, and double votes,” the pro-family initiative who collected the signatures said in a press statement.

Vesna Pusić, Minister of Foreign Affairs later declared that even if it were to go forward, the referendum does not have binding, only consultative function. Deputy Prime Minister Stazić also said the people’s vote in a referendum is not binding upon the government – contrary to the Constitutional provision which says the referendum is binding.

The results of the petition drive, said organizer Jelena Gazivoda, clearly show that “Croatian citizens want this important question to be discussed and decided on the highest of levels.”

The draft legislation also includes provisions outlawing “discrimination” against people in civil partnerships. Article 20 reads, “Any form of discrimination, direct or indirect on the basis of same sex civil union, as well as on the basis of sexual orientation is prohibited,” as is “encouraging” such “discrimination.”

“Direct discrimination” is defined as “any act which puts or has put a person who is a member of same sex civil union into an unfavorable position in regards to a comparable situation [natural marriage].

It also outlaws “indirect discrimination,” which the draft defines as “specific regulations, criterion or practice, which appear to be neutral,” but which put same-sex partners into “unfavorable position regarding all other persons.”

In related news, the former Soviet bloc state of Moldova in June quietly adopted a law, similar to that of the Russian Federation, outlawing homosexual propaganda, a move that has raised the ire of European homosexualist campaigners. The Moldovan Contravention Code now forbids the “distribution of public information [...] aimed at the propagation of prostitution, paedophilia, pornography or of any other relations than those related to marriage or family”. The law allows for fines up to 8,000 Leu (€ 480).

The EU Delegation to Moldova has expressed “deep regret and concern” about “these manifestations of intolerance and discrimination.”

The national law follows the adoption of similar statutes by the cities of Bălți, Sorochi, Drochia, Cahul, Ceadîr Lunga and Hiliuţi, as well as the Anenii Noi and Basarabeasca districts, to prohibit the “aggressive propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientations.” The cities of Rîşcani, Glodeni and the villages of

Chetriş, Bocani and Pîrliţa have voluntarily withdrawn proposed prohibitions of homosexual propaganda. In May this year, the European Parliament adopted a Resolution condemning Moldova for proposing the law.

The “Resolution on the fight against homophobia” also condemned the proposal for two draft laws in Ukraine, put forward in 2011 and 2012, that propose to make it an offence to “spread homosexuality,” including by “holding meetings, parades, actions, demonstrations and mass events aiming at intentional distribution of any positive information about homosexuality”. The draft laws will allow fines and up to five years’ imprisonment for offences. The Resolution notes that the Committee on Freedom of Expression and Information of the Ukraine Parliament supports these bills.

The EU parliament also named similar laws as “unconstitutional” in Latvia, Lithuania and Hungary. In Hungary, the Resolution also notes, a local ordinance was tabled in the Budapest City Council by Fidesz to “limit obscene marches” ahead of the Budapest Gay Pride, though both the Hungarian proposals were later dropped.

The Resolution went on to condemn these laws as manifestations of “homophobia” and equated the banning of “gay pride” demonstrations and the use of “inflammatory” language with murder. The Resolution called for a review of the Framework Decision on Racism and Xenophobia “with a view to strengthening and enlarging its scope to include hate crimes based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression”.

The European Commission for Democracy Through Law, a body of the separate Council of Europe – also called the Venice Commission – issued a similar declaration condemning such laws.

The Venice Commission report condemned the Ukraine law that proposes measures to ensure the “healthy moral, spiritual and psychological development of children, to promote the idea that a family consists of a union between a man and a woman” and “to overcome the demographic crisis”. It prohibits “propaganda of homosexuality,” which it defines as “an activity that aims and/or manifests itself in the deliberate dissemination of any positive information about homosexuality which may impair physical and mental health of the child, his moral and spiritual development, including forming a misconception that the traditional and non-traditional marital relationships are socially equal.”

The Ukraine draft law would outlaw: “Holding rallies, parades, actions, pickets, demonstrations and other mass gatherings aimed at/or reflected in the deliberate dissemination of any positive information about same sex sexual relationship; training lessons, thematic discussions, interactive games, educational hours, other activities of educational nature on same sex sexual relationship (...); spreading reports and activities in the media about same sex sexual relationship and calls in any form to the same-sex sexual relationship lifestyle (...); spreading of information in any form on same-sex sexual relationship in the secondary schools and calls to same-sex sexual relationship lifestyle.”

The Venice Commission report dismissed the justification of protection for public morals and children, saying, “The existence of a European wide consensus on the right to freedom of expression to campaign for the recognition of sexual minorities’ rights narrows the state’s margin of appreciation concerning the necessary measures for the protection of public morality.”

Instead, they endorsed the relativistic model, quoting the Human Rights Committee that said, “The concept of morals derives from many social, philosophical and religious traditions,” and any limitation imposed for the “purpose of protecting morals must be based on principles not deriving from a single tradition”.

“Without limiting the prohibition to obscene or pornographic display of homosexuality, or to the demonstration of nudity or sexually explicit or provocative behaviour or material, the provisions cannot be deemed to be justified as necessary in a democratic society to the protection of morals,” the report concluded.

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