Sometimes Even Most Basic Principles Need Voters’ Confirmation. This Is One Of Those Times.

The international media have started showing some interest in Sunday’s vote as well. Politico.eu has a decent summary of events so far, for example. But with five days remaining to Sunday’s referendum vote on same-sex marriage, the one thing that has been noticeably lacking in the public debate are polls. While that will likely change in the days ahead, it left both YES and NO campaigns in the dark in terms of gauging their reach and fine-tuning their approach. Now, the rumor-mill has it that some in-house polling was indeed done and that the results suggest a slight edge for the NO campaign, but given the lack of (financial) resources both campaigns are struggling with, these things need to be taken with a grain of salt, although it would be wrong to disregard them completely.

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pengovsky already cast his vote

Having said that, the campaign this time around is so crude that public opinion polls would probably not do much difference. The NO campaign especially opted for an all-hands-on-deck approach, enlisting the support of whatever grass-roots and Astroturf support it could muster, ranging from crackpots talking about hormone disruptors to suspiciously similar looking associations and groups all the way to the Catholic Church and the right-wing political parties, both within and without the parliament.

Lies, damn lies and the NO campaign

And while the YES campaign enlisted support from non-parliamentary and parliamentary parties, including the ruling coalition, it is trying to keep the message simple and clear: the issue here is equal right to marry and little else. And while they have been fairly consistent in this approach (post-debate mockery of the NO side over the weekend notwithstanding), the other side have resorted to fearmongering, intimidation, bad grammar and abuse of legal procedures, all in the name of the cause.

Namely, the day after the debate on public TV which left many-a-viewer in a state of shock and disbelief (yes, there was actually a guy in the NO camp talking about hormone disruptors and yes, pengovsky knows this guy personally), the very next day there was a hearing in the parliamentary committee on human rights on the issue. Normally, such a hearing would be held during legislative procedure, but since the committee is chaired by SDS’ very own Eva Irgl, it was clear from the outset that the sole aim of the enterprise was to give the NO camp a platform to speak from. Especially since Slovene media still feel obliged to report just about every antic the elected representatives of the people think of. Sure, the YES campaign were given the right to counter the claims of the NO campaign, but it was more than obvious who were the protagonists in this particular farce.

Intimidation, fearmongering and bad grammar

Were that not enough (and apparently it isn’t), private individuals who let the world around them know they’re in favour of equal right to marriage, are being bullied and intimidated by those opposing the measure. Case in point being Maruša Žabkar, a young entrepreneur from the town of Krško, who according to her own account,  found a hand-delivered unsigned letter on her doorstep on Monday morning, full of accusations, homophobic slurs and bad grammar, denouncing her and (among other things) accusing of destroying the nation by supporting equal rights. Go figure.

https://twitter.com/russhie/status/676323137399705600

Still, the award for the most concentrated pile of bullshit goes to the Roman Catholic Church which provided a compendium of virtually every bigoted conspiracy theory you can find on the internets, some of which would make even the right wing of the Republican Party cringe. A sample, for your reading, well, pleasure.

The law allows for adoptions by same-sex couples. Do you really wish your child to be adopted by two homosexuals, should anything happen to you?

The law does not “allow” for same-sex adoption, as these are already legal in case of one partner being the biological parent or if the adoption took place in a foreign country (e.g. the USA). Should a child, bob forbid, lose both parents while underage, Slovenian legislation (as everywhere in the world, I imagine) provides for a custodian to be named, usually the next of kin. Usually, grandparents or uncles and aunts. And even if there is no next of kin and the orphaned child would indeed be up for adoption, the social services would act in the best interest of the child. This excludes any possibility of same-sex couples being somehow privileged in adoption procedures. Doubly so given the fact that there are way more prospective adopters in Slovenia than there are possible adoptive children. And if you’re still not convinced, there is a provision for children over 10 years of age to give their consent for adoption into a new family.

The law brings changes to curriculum. Do you wish for your children to learn that they can pick their own gender and that they should experiment with their gender and sexual orientation?

Wait, what? Not only does the law not say a word about teaching curricla, the “school-meddling” argument has been thoroughly refuted (link in Slovenian). But on the whole, pengovsky should point out that keeping your children from learning stuff (including on sexual orientation) only creates frustrated and socially inhibited individuals. Which is a fairly good description of the vast majority of the NO campaign.

The law kills freedom of speech. Do you wish to lose your job saying it’s better for a child to have a mother and a father than two people of same sex?

Pengovsky has yet to see a law that would repudiate an article of the constitution. Obviously, nothing of the sort would happen.

And so on, ad nauseam. A good run-down of absurdity of these “arguments” is available here.

One of those times

And if none of the arguments of the NO campaign hold water, the only question is, why vote YES? Simple: because all men (and women) are created equal and people who want to be together should be able to do so in a way that makes them the most comfortable. By allowing same-sex weddings, no one is disenfranchised, only slightly more people get to get hitched.

This might seem self-explanatory especially to young voters, but sadly it is not. Which is why Sunday’s vote is so terribly important. Sometimes, even the most basic principles of a modern society need to be confirmed by a popular vote.

This is one of those times.

 

 

Referendum On Same-Sex Marriage Blocked But Not Over And Done With

Slovenian parliament yesterday voted to block the referendum on same-sex marriage by an overwhelming majority od 53 votes in favour nad 21 against. This comes after the SMC ironed out the problems they had with the move by the United Left, SocDems nad Alenka Bratušek‘s ZaAB, which called a special session of the parliament to block the referendum on the grounds that it would put a human rights question up for a popular vote.

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Final vote in favour of blocking referendum on same-sex marriage (source: RTVSLO)

The SMC initially said it would not impede the referendum, causing much furore in the LGBT community among the progressive part od the society in general, especially since they voted in favour of the law. But as pengovsky wrote days ago, there was much more to their misgivings than a simple flip-flop on the issue.

You see, the story does not end bere. In fact it is entirely possible that the referendum will be held nevertheless.

Namely, what happened yesterday was that a new constitutional provision allowing for blocking the referendum was applied for the first time ever. And now the ball is in the petitioners’ court, giving them a chance to challenge the parliament move in the Constitutional Court. Aleš Primc & Co. will obviously do exactly that. Especially since they’ve apparently already collected the necessary 40.000 signatures.

And as usual in Slovenia, this constitutional provision, enacted during Janša government 2.0 was not followed up with necessary legislation. This existing legislation on popular initiative is to be applied in analogy which leaves even more room for manoeuvre that there was meant to be in the first place.

So, the way things stand now, the whole same-sex marriage issue will land in front of nine judges of the constitutional court. The judges have 30 days to decide but they have anything but a consistent record on such issue. Both as an institution and as individuals. In fact, given past experience, it not at all unfathomable that they will allow the referendum to go forward, be it on procedural ground, be it on substance.

And if you’re not worried yet, try this on for size: in the constitutional court, the deck is stacked against proponents of same-sex marriage. Because technically the defendant is the National Assembly as an institution and not political parties which voted in favour of blocking the referendum. This means that the actual legal argument for blocking the referendum will be laid out by the parliamentary legal service. Which in itself is not a problem, since the said service sports some of the best lawyers in the country. The problem is that the parliamentary legal service can by its very definition only make a legal argument.

In all probability, the argument in favour of the referendum will be made by more or less the same legal team which is heavily affiliated with the NSi and by extension the Catholic church and which already has a couple of constitutional victories under its belt, most notably the case against the naming of Tito Street and, more recently, a case against discriminatory funding of private schools with regard to state schools.

But the question at hand is not just legal, it is also ideological and emotional. And nothing prevents the judges to look beyond the mere letter of the law. In which case the odds for green-lighting the referendum increase dramatically.

And should this happen, the petitioners will have been inadvertently given an enormously powerful weapon in the referendum debate. Namely, it goes without saying they would claim that even the constitutional court thinks that same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Which of course wouldn’t be true, but they would go ahead and say it anyway. Because the more doubt they can sow in the people’s minds, the better. And the proponents of same-sex marriage, an already wily heterogeneous group, would face even more of an uphill battle, demanding even more discipline and consistency.

All of that in a debate on an issue where emotions will ultimately decide. So, while the vote in the parliament was a politically bold move, the issue is far from settled. And until then, the law allowing same-sex marriage is on ice.