Slovakia’s referendum on gay rights on Saturday failed to achieve the 50% minimum electorate turnout, as was widely expected. Just 21% of the 4.41 million eligible voters cast their votes, with between 90.3% and 94.5% voting yes to the questions: whether marriage can only be a union of a man and a woman; whether to ban same-sex couples from adopting children; and whether parents can let their children skip school classes involving education on sex and euthanasia.
There are a number of factors that make this outcome difficult to comment on and I do not think that the result is a fair representation of the views of the Slovak people.
The first reason is that many Slovak’s do not believe that human rights can be voted on, and should be a given. Those who disagreed with the questions posed in the referendum did not go to vote, meaning one of the main factors affecting the low voter turnout was solidarity. What may look like political disengagement was in fact a protest vote in most cases. Many LGBT supporters welcomed the results as they had encouraged people not to participate.
We must also look at the structure of referendums in Slovakia. The 50% needed to make a referendum valid may seem like a high number, but it is paramount to keeping the country fair and democratic. Without this, the way would be paved for radical political parties, religious and not, to roll out controversial referendums to a generally non-participating populous.
Despite the positive attributes, the fact still remains that over 90% of those who voted where against the cited gay rights. Despite the positive political solidarity that has been suggested, it still shows that people feel more extremely against gay marriage than in favour of it. In 2014, Slovakia put in legislation that marriage was defined as a union between exclusively a man and a woman, following suit of what happened in Croatia in 2013. We can see a pattern developing here of creating cultural divides within the EU. The Western member states have been rapidly granting marriage and adoption rights over the past few years while the Eastern member states seem to be going legislatively in the opposite direction.
By Alona Cameron