Social conservatives in Slovakia aim to block gay couples from gaining more rights in a referendum on Saturday that pits the country’s mainly liberal city dwellers against those in the more traditional countryside. The campaign is part of a conservative pushback in eastern Europe against what they see as overly liberal policies spreading eastwards in the two decades since the European Union expanded to include former Communist states. More than 400,000 Slovaks, nearly 10 percent of the central European country’s electorate, have signed a petition demanding a national vote. It is a rare show of political engagement in a country where people often shun public affairs – a mere 13 percent voted in the European Parliament election last year.
The vote will not change the legal status quo on same-sex unions but rather could cement opposition to any changes. Gay unions of any sort are not legal in Slovakia; two attempts to push them through parliament failed in the past. Last year, parliament inserted the definition of traditional marriage into the constitution.
The group behind the referendum, Aliancia pre rodinu (Alliance for the Family), says the traditional family is under threat and points to an increasing number of countries including neighboring Austria and the Czech Republic that allow various forms of same-sex unions, or child adoption by gay couples.