Same-Sex Legislation (Predictably) Not Yet Home Safe

Remember when pengovsky wrote that the new same-sex weddings legislation is not yet home safe? Well, guess what…

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Modern Centre Party – SMC (source)

The SMC seemingly flip-flopped on the issue, saying they will not challenge a referendum initiative which would yet again put up the same-sex weddings issue to a popular vote. Naturally most of the supporters of same-sex weddings went apeshit and the SMC was served a proper Twitter-storm. Its intensity was probably confounded by the fact that in the eyes of many people the SMC finally saw the light by voting in favour of the legislation (and doing so en bloc) but has now retraced its steps and found itself on its pre-election neither-nor position.

And, admittedly, it did not look good. Even since Aleš Primc and his band of merry men initiated yet another referendum bid to strike down this harmless but ideologically very loaded piece of legislation, it was more or less the accepted wisdom that the parliament will use the recent changes to the constitution to their fullest effect, prevent the referendum on the grounds of this being a human-rights matter and then let Primc fight it the Constitutional Court. Well, apparently not. At the very least, not just yet. Namely, the ruling SMC stated they’ve no intention of denying the people a vote on an important issue. Later they’ve signaled the decision may be revised but at any rate this turn of events made a lot of people unhappy and they sure let the SMC know.

There are a couple of ways to digest this. The most obvious one is to say that the SMC flip-flopped on the issue or – even worse – that its support for the legislation was not genuine but rather a price they had to pay to join the ALDE (liberals) political group on the european level. This is possible, especially if reports from some months ago are correct and UK LibDems did indeed take issue with SMC sitting on the fence on this prior to elections. But one would like to think that European parliamentary groups take themselves slightly more serious than that and that a true about-face on same-sex weddings would have wider recriminations for the offending party.

So chalk that one to “possible, but not likely” column. A bit more likely is the possibility of the SMC parliamentary group not being entirely on the same page on the issue. There are thirty-six SMC MPs, most of them with little political experience and – understandably – of 50 shades of liberal ideology. So the decision not to go against the referendum head-on (not yet, at least), might have something to do with that. Keeping 36 people on-board on a highly divisive issue while they’re all lobbied and bombarded with arguments from all sides is not an easy task.

And finally, it could be the party simply got scared of its own power and what it can do with it. With great power comes great responsibility and never in the history of Slovenia did such a greenhorn party with such a politically inexperienced leadership hold so much power. And it seem probable, to pengovsky at least, that the moral imperative of ethical policy making simply got the better of them. As a result, Slovenia will once again be the battleground of rational-but-useless arguments in favour of same-sex weddings, opposed by emotional outcries backed up by manipulations, fear mongering and blatant lies by the opponents. The rhetoric is already there. Now it will only get worse (Slovenian only).

But the referendum rules have changed since the Family code was struck down two years ago. Which brings us to the fun part.

Because while the SMC said it will not impede the referendum initiative, there are unofficial signals it might back the bid to prevent the referendum. And while the (centre-)left parties are pushing forward with the bid, they can do didly squat without votes of the SMC. The way this works is that once the petition to hold a referendum is filed, the parliament can decide by a simple majority the referendum is illegal as it deals with basic human rights which then leaves it to the petitioners to challenge the decision at the constitutional court. And with the current composition of the constitutional court suggesting anything but a clear dismissal of the referendum, it seems reasonable to expect that the legislation allowing same-sex weddings will be challenged on a referendum one way or another.

And if there is a referendum, the new rules stipulate that the legislation is struck down if a majority votes against it, but only is this majority represents more than 20% of all eligible voters. Which means about 340.000 people will have to make the effort and cast their “no” vote on referendum day. Which is quite an obstacle.

With this in mind, other dimensions open up which put the SMC decision into a slightly more nuanced perspective. For example, it is not entirely clear whether the special session of the parliament can already be called. Namely, if you wanted to truly dot the i’s and cross the t’s (as lawyer-heavy SMC is probably inclined to do) it seems reasonable to wait and see whether the referendum petitioners will actually collect the necessary 40.000 confirmed signatures. While they’ve done it before, this is a condition that should not be taken for granted. If by any chance Primc & Co. fail in collecting the signatures, then the whole brouhaha will have been in vain and the SMC will have been vilified for nothing. Politically, at least. At the very least, this means the party still has about three weeks to decide whether to fight the referendum in court or not.

But the last – admittedly most wildly optimistic – scenario is also the most interesting. What if, just what if the referendum is held without being challenged in court and fails? What if the majority of the people votes in favour of the law or at the very least decide same-sex weddings are a non-issue and don’t bother to vote, thereby helping the legislation to survive? If that were to be the case, the SMC would suddenly be in the position to claim it gauged the public mood much more accurately than any of the left-wing parties. And even if their reasoning did not go this far, a favourable referendum outcome would give them back much of the political credibility they’ve lost in the past couple of weeks.

At any rate, there are a number of ways this story can unfold and not all of them are negative. But as pengovsky was warning even as the left was celebrating, the hard work had only begun.

 

 

Same-Sex Marriage: Third Time’s A Charm. For Now…

Hours ago Slovenian parliament voted 51-28 to legalize same-sex marriage, extending all the rights and benefits of a married heterosexual couple to their same-sex counterparts. To the horror of those opposing the legislation, this includes the right to adopt children, exchange wows (and, indeed, vows) and generally do what married people can do. Thus Slovenia became 21st country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage which sort of makes us special. But not really.

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As both readers of this blog know, a complete overhaul of the Family Code which – among many other things – legalised gay marriage, was rejected on a referendum two-and-a-half years ago. So in effect what was passed today by the parliament was just a severely stripped-down version of th Code which solved only one pressing issue. Everything else, including the all-encompassing definition of a family, i.e. granparents adopting their grandchildren, non-blood-related people consenting to become a family and so on, was left for another day. If that day ever comes.

Because while the rabid right-wing is expecting the four horsemen of the Apocalypse to ride in about now, the sad truth is that the quote/unquote revolutionary potential of the left-wing has been exhausted. At least on this issue. “Revolutionary” because this wasn’t really a revolution. Not when fucking Alabama is allowing gay weddings. The LGBT community in Slovenia is apparently extatic and has every right to be so. But the country as such is only marginally better due to today’s vote and the fact the phrase “a historic vote” was applied liberally only further strengthenes the point. When history is (pretended to have been) made, politicians start sitting on their laurels. And Bob knows they think they’ve earned them.

Finally on that train

Well, they didn’t. At the very best what happened today was Slovenia catching the train it should have boarded long ago. Slightly more realistically speaking, what we have seen today is again a demonstration that the left-right division does not always correspond to the progressive/conservative division. Today’s was the third attempt at some sort of legalisation of same-sex marriage, the first one dating back to 2002 (then it would rightly have been called revolutionary). And in the first two attempts the whole thing fell through not so much due to fervent opposition from the right (their attitude is no secret) but rather due to lacklustre support on the left.

That the third time was the charm is mostly the result of leftist ZL (United Left) finally being proactive and filing a forward-looking piece of legislation as well as SMC, the party of PM Miro Cerar (now being rebranded as Party of Modern Centre) somehow trying to make amends for their failure to support same-sex marriage during the election campaign. Which probably bought them a couple of votes last summer.

It was a clever trick, really. The ZL put forward the draft law at the very moment when the right-wing is split over Janez Janša and the SDS-NSi combo is no more a given. Especially since the Roman Catholic Church withdrew its unconditional support for Janša’s party. Also, the SDS tied down a lot of resources trying to fight back their leader’s imprisonment and the judiciary in general. And it seems the party and its civil-society-satelites lack the manpower and materiel to wage (political) war on two fronts. Specifically, Aleš Primc, the guy running the NO campaign the last time around, is busy these days rallying the faithful in front of the Supreme Court, being all vocal about Janša’s court case(s). As a result, today’s protest in front of the parliament against changing the law was flimsy at best, given the gravity of the issue.

Thus the ZL managed to get the ball rolling and pass until now a seeming impossible piece of legislation.

Unless…

Unless, of course, the legislation is beaten after the parliament. This does not so much mean a referendum, although one is possible. Namely, ever since the changes in referendum legislation, it is next to impossible to kill a piece of legislation by keeping the attendance number low and making sure ony your fervent supporters vote. And, a referendum can not be held on a question of human rights. Which marrying people you love definitely is. But the referendum is not the real threat.

The real threat comes from the way the law was passed. Namely, for some reason, probaby that of political expediency, trying to slam-dunk the issue while the right wing is more or less in tatters, the majority in the parliament voted early on that the changes in law would be debated and voted on in an extraordinary (i.e. shortened) procedure, where all three readings the final two readings are condensed in one session with the parliamentary committee doing the debate first.

Ordinarily, the parliament would debate this in tree separate readings, giving enough room for a civil exchange of pros and cons. Additionally, parliamentary Rules of Procedure specify in Article 143 142 clearly under what conditions can the extraordinary procedure be invoked. It seems no such conditions were met. This opens a pretty big hole in the armour and could mean that in the challenge before constitutional court the former could ignore the contents of the law and go straight to technicality of passing it. This also means that the court would not be de iure ruling on human rights but rather on whether the parliament applied the appropriate procedure in defending and expanding those rights.

And suddenly things would get tricky, again…

How Many Trees Does It Take To See A Forest

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

–Martin Niemöller

The murderous rampage of Anders Behring Breivik was anything but a lunatic act of a deranged madman. As days pass and more details emerge, it is becoming more and more clear that this was a premeditated crime with political and ideological background. To call his crime an ‘unpredictable act of a single lunatic’ is – whether you like it or not – turning a blind eye to a worrying trend which has all but became the norm in Europe: making politics of extreme right ever more mainstream. Just as all over Europe, the reaction in Slovenia that something like that can happen (and in Norway, of all places!) was one of shock, at least of disbelief, especially after the initial media-induced preconception that the attack was committed by some Muslim extremists was shattered by the image of a tall, blonde blue-eyed, well, Aryan.


(source)

However, as disbelief gave way to analysis, something intriguing was beginning to happen. As if on cue, the voices and opinions that could be loosely classified as right-wing or conservative started that this tragedy should not be (ab)used and politicised. That fearmongering, figthing the existing (political) enemies within and creating new ones are “nothing but post-9/11-like anti-freedom hikes only that this time they are being executed by the over-pious political left” (spiked.com). Instead, goes the argument, “this was an act of a right-wing nutjob” (WSJ) who claimed to be a Christian and a Conservative but was in fact anything but. That equalling Breivik’s actions to particular political positions is in fact “an attack on the freedom of speech because there’s a huge difference between words and shooting” (Žiga Turk, Slovene only. EDIT: In the comments Mr. Turk provided what he believes to be a more accurate translation)

Pengovsky believes these sentiments are genuine. They are also a symptom of collective denial. What we are seeing in Europe for some yeas now is the moderate (call them European) right wing parties actively courting hard-line voters, those whom they wouldn’t touch twenty years ago. As the general disillusionment with politics, politicians and their abilities to provide any sort of meaningful solution to socio-economic clustefuck of today grows, so grow the tendencies of right wing politicos to flirt with xenophobia, nationalism, anti-communism and other ghosts of European past. On that same note, let it be said, that at the same time the moderate left is increasingly moving to the centre, creating potentially just as dangerous vacuum on that side of the political spectrum. It’s just that no-one really courts the radical left. Mostly because they’re at each other’s throats most of the time.

At any rate, the move has been a short-term success for right wing parties virtually all across Europe. Belgium, France, Italy, Croatia, Finland, Hungary, Austria, Slovenia and Germany (to name but a few) all of these countries have to varying degrees seen the rise of nationalism and its becoming more and more mainstream on the right side of the political spectrum. Take Germany, for example. Last year pengovsky showed how Angie Merkel, who together with Monsieur Sarkozy is bankrolling the Greek Debt Tragedy, took a swipe at Germany’s very own multi-kulti without as much as batting an eyelash. Anders Behring Breivik on the other hand got a hard-on every time he was thinking of ways to destroy the concept. And he decided the best way to do it was to kill those who believed that multi-cultural society is essentially a good thing

The gunman had said his operation was not aimed at killing as many people as possible but that he wanted to create the greatest loss possible to Norway’s governing Labour Party, which he accused of failing the country on immigration. (BBC

Still think it wasn’t political?

Whether or not the killer is insane is of secondary importance. He did what others were preaching to him and others like him. Islam is a religion like any other, it has its good sides and bad sides, but we are being preconditioned into believing that anyone with a thick beard and darker skin is a potential suicide bomber and that every explosion out there is the work of al-Quaeda, although Osama bin Laden is slepping with the fishes for some time now. Multiculturalism and tolerance are easy targets for the pious, the moralistic and the greedy alike, because either “they don’t belong here”, “they don’t share our values and will destroy our way of life” or “they will take our jobs”. Marxism (or Communism, to be more precise) is no longer a threat to Europe or anyone else for that matter. Yet it is still constantly being used as the political Bogey-man, as if Soviet tanks were just behind the borders, waiting with their engines on. As a result, anything that remotely looks like socialism is attacked viciously. Like healthcare. Or the Norwegian Labour party summer camp. Words, therefore, are not something innocent, but can have brutal effect when used carelessly. And this is what the political right is doing all over Europe (and elsewhere) for the past decade or so. Radicalising its rhetoric and creating the air of emergency situation and even panic. This is nothing less than creating a state of fear. And then someone snaps.

When Breivik’s 1500-page manifesto was released, Slovene columnist Marko Crnković tweeted that having browsed through it he found nothing that he couldn’t see on any number of Slovene forums and news-website comments on an average day. Which is true. Jure Mesarič of blog Drugi Dom collected a handful of comments which went along the lines of “extreme liberalism with its ‘human rights’ is also to blame”. But perhaps the most telling example is a comment on a yesterday’s mighty fine post by drfilomena. Someone left a hefty comment accusing the good doctor of being everything from a communist onwards, putting together the rhetoric of Slovene right-wing parties and enriching with some extra-wonderful slurs of his own (I really couldn’t be troubled to translate). God forbid this person owns gun.

Given the above it is of course no wonder that the political right all over Europe is bending over backwards to put as much daylight as possible between itself and Anders Behring Breivik. Creating much fuss about every other aspect of the tragedy, they refuse to even touch the question of why and how the he got his ideas. True, Breivik is neither a true Christian not a proper Conservative. But the European (and, by extension, Slovenian) political right should ask itself whether it is still Christian and conservative and what it will do about the hate-speech, ever more prevailing in its rhetoric. Instead they paint this tragedy as an unfortunate one-off case.

Question is, how many trees does one need to see a forest. Or do we have to wait until they come for someone else?

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