Friday, June 21, 2013

Despite Pressure, 20% of Croatian Voting Population (750,000 people) Request Referendum to Define Marriage as a Union between a Man and a Woman

”Do you think that the Constitution should define marriage as a union between a woman and a man?” was the question that within 15 days gained about 20% of voting population′s support, or exactly: 749.316 signatures. Although this should be more than enough to legally call for a national referendum, this action faced a lot of pressure from different sides.

Please read here an article written by Slavko Vukmanov, member of the Croatian political party HRAST and his personal impressions about the actions and pressure they faced:

In a long line of over one thousand people, boxes with signatures marched through the main streets of Zagreb on 14th June, carried by volunteers and coordinators of the civil Initiative for marriage and family, who finally handed them over to the president of the Croatian Parliament, Mr. Josip Leko.

Many have doubted whether the Initiative would ever get to the legal threshold of 10% of the voting population. When that goal had been reached within the first week, the president of the Parliamentary Constitutional Matters Committee, Mr. Grbin, raised the threshold to 450.000 signatures. When that too was accomplished in just a few days, several Government ministers and opposing MPs have expressed their doubt over the constitutionality of the question in the Petition, of whether the Parliament should have the final word in this issue or not, and whether there should be an exemption to the the rule when it comes to a matter dealing with human rights etc.

Three days after the Petition was submitted, the organizational board announced in a press-conference that preliminary counting generates over 710.000 signatures! It was clear at that point that the first people-initiated referendum in Croatia is just around the corner. The final result sounded even better: 749.316 signatures surprised even some members of the organization! 

Especially when one thinks of the tremendous amount of obstacles, false accusations and numerous verbal and even physical attacks on volunteers (over 50 were reported to the police). The leading media, both printed and electronic, continued to develop negative a picture of and label the key leaders of the Initiative as discriminatory, conservative, mediaeval etc. Volunteers throughout the country were called bad names and people who in spite of all that expressed their support to the Petition were put in negative context without a chance to say anything on their account.

And yet, about 20% of the voting population in more than 2000 registered locations within only 15 days have vastly contributed to spreading the opinion of the so called ”quiet majority”, that marriage is a union between a woman and a man, and have legitimized the request to include that definition in the Croatian Constitution. Well known people from public life such as politicians, sportsmen or singers who had the courage to support the Initiative had their share of media mistreatment too, but have firmly stood up for their values alongside so many ordinary people.

“What′s next?”
was the question asked immediately after the Petition was handed over to the chairman of the Parliament. Now the Ministry of Administration will examine the signatures and their associated unique citizen numbers, then after that “consolidation” the Government may forward the Petition′s question to the Constitutional Court, which will then decide whether the question is discriminatory or not and whether it is in accordance with the Constitution. If both aspects are found constitutionally sound, the referendum should be announced (although with no obligatory time-frame).

The parliamentary majority then imposed one additional step to be taken: the requirement for the Initiative for referendum to be voted by Parliament It is obvious that the left-wing majority tries in every way to avoid this democratic and absolutely clear people′s manifesto, but legal experts on constitutional matters have already stated that such a move has no base neither in the Constitution nor in the law.

If the Government will insist on such a scenario then that would lead to a unique parliamentary crisis with ultimately resulting in the President of the republic dismissing the Parliament, an outcome that no one in the Government would like to see.

For now, the first and major task for defending the natural structure of marriage and family is fulfilled. The Initiative managed to get 20% of the voting population to sign the Petition for obtaining a referendum (one of two possible ways to change the Constitution) which makes this the first successful attempt of this kind. People throughout the country now expect meritorious institutions to unfold and conclude this unique legal battle.

It is noteworthy to add that law prescribes no voter turnout for national referendum. That means no threshold is required, so every 50% + 1 vote wins, no matter the number of citizens who actually used their voting right. Theoretically, even a very small number of people could decide on this issue, and their choice is obligatory and automatically changes the Constitution, this time concerning the natural definition of marriage as the union between a woman and a man.

Such an obvious statement, but such a big legal fight to copy/paste it from the existing Family law, where it has been enshrined for years already, into the Constitution! But as obvious as it is, it is also a very important sentence, very much worth standing up for!

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