It was Simon Zelotes or Simon the Zealot who in the seminal rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar urged Jesus to attack Roman occupiers for he was followed by the fifty thousand who screamed love and more for him. All that was needed was for Jesus to add a touch of hatred for Rome and Galilee would be free once again. It was, in short, an attempt to use religion and its followers to political ends. Fast forward two thousand years and you’ll find similar zealots in Slovenia. It’s just that they’re not fighting Romans but gays. And lesbians. And bisexuals. And anyone else who doesn’t subscribe to the notions of “natural laws”, “normality” and “tradition”, freeing Slovenia not of Latin occupiers but of evil and unnatural ideas, making it a God-given heterosexual haven.
Aleš Primc’s “defenders of all things natural” (source)
As both readers of this blog know, it all has to with the new Family code which the parliament passed last week after what was most likely one of the more brutal legislative procedures in the history of this country. Not necessarily the most brutal, but definitely close. In fact, it was one of those cases where the entire breadth of the ideological and cultural divide in this country became visible. This was not a power struggle nor was it a fight over a slice of the ever thinning financial pie, not even a run on well-paid government jobs. It was, pure and simple, about what kind of a society Slovenes (will) live in. Was? Is, rather. Because even though the Family code was confirmed by the parliament, the ordeal is by no means over. The law, which was significantly watered down on most crucial points in a vane attempt to placate the right wing, miraculously escaped a veto in the National Council but is now subject to yet another referendum bid.
A grass-roots campaign headed by former SLS member Aleš Primc and heavily backed by the Catholic Church was and still is very vocal in their opposition to the new code. As the debate progressed it became more and more obvious that (just as the more observant suspected all along) positions of the political right-wing and Primc’s campaign itself were extremely harmonious and synchronised. In fact, Primc and his lot were only saying what the right wing was thinking. And in the end, they ended up saying it as well.
I’ve no problem with gays in fact I have many gay friends
The level of hypocrisy, double morals and false arguments reached almost unprecedented levels during this debate. No matter how often the myth of “a normal family” was debunked, the opponents of the code kept getting back to that (case in point being France Cukjati MD, of Janez Janša‘s SDS), claiming that by extending the definition of a family beyond its current scope, the traditional family (mother, father, offspring) would somehow lose on importance. That the very fabric of this society will be irreparably torn and that the nation as such will die off sooner rather than later. But woe be unto them who would dare to think that there was anything remotely homophobic in their opposition to the Code because… wait for it… they have a number of gay friends!
This, obviously is the most perfidious of arguments. Justifying one’s homophobia by claiming to have gay friends while bashing them and their rights is derogatory to the extreme. The more the political right tried to prove that their argument was not about denying gays and lesbians equal rights, the more they were proving exactly that. But to be fair, there was a lot of this going around on the political left as well, only in a more subdued manner.
This was quite probably the main reason the code was watered down significantly. Specifically, provision which originally allowed same-sex marriages was reduced to allowing civil unions with full rights while the provision allowing child adoptions by same-sex couples was tightened to allowing adoptions only if one of the partners is a biological parent of the child. Both provisions are a marked improvement over the existing situation but still stop short of completely equalling same-sex and heterosexual couples.
Clash of cultures
Officially, this watering-down was meant to placate Primc, his gang and the political right. But since the only way to placate them was to kill the code entirely, the move was more likely meant to make the code more acceptable to the “traditionalists” on the political left. The fact that the Code was passed by a relative rather than an absolute majority only further strengthens this particular line of thought.
Be that as it may, the new Family Code was passed and – miraculously so – the National Council did not veto it, which means that it should be enacted soon. Well, not really. There’s still the possibility of a referendum. And sure enough Primc and Co. collected 32,000 signatures (only 2500 were needed) to initiate referendum proceedings. In this enterprise they were assisted by the Roman Catholic Church which apparently was more than happy to let them collect signatures in or near churches. But since the Church takes it upon itself to decide questions of morality and properness (never mind the paedophile scandals and the 700 million debt accumulated by a single diocese in Slovenia) this was to be expected. Rather than going apeshit about it, one can only conclude time and again that when push comes to a shove the political and ideological right will resort to any and all weapons in this particular clash of cultures.
What. Happens. Next.
Anyways. President of the parliament Pavle Gantar (who, apparently, will step down sooner rather than later) is now obliged to initiate the procedure in which the proponents of the referendum must collect 40,000 confirmed signatures in a month’s time to call a referendum on the Family Code. Although they collected 32k signatures in a matter of days, the task is slightly more difficult as those 40k signatures must be given on a special form and confirmed by an official at an Administrative Unit (upravna enota) which – if nothing else – means a trek downtown, standing in line and doing the paperwork rather than just signing on the dotted line and being tapped on the back by the local priest. Gantar already said that the procedure will be initiated on 1 September since initiating it now would mean it would end during summer recess.
However, it is probably a safe bet that Primc and Co. will collect enough signatures to have a referendum called. Under this scenario, the government will then petition the Constitutional Court to deny the referendum on the basis that it would mean a popular vote over basic human rights and/or could mean imposing the will of the majority on a clearly defined minority of the population and thus discrimination based on sexual orientation which is explicitly forbidden by the constitution.
Elementary, my dear Watson…
The case seems open-and-shut. There can be no popular vote on human rights. They apply to everyone and are exerted directly, based on the constitution rather than via specific legislation. Elementary? Not really. Sadly, this may not be the case. Technically the Constitutional Court will be asked to deny petitioners their right to a referendum against the right of same-sex couples to have their family-related rights equalled with heterosexual couples. And all of a sudden the case becomes highly complicated.
Luckily, gays, lesbians and everyone else who would benefit from the new Family Code have one thing going for them: a ruling by the Constitutional Court which declared part of the existing law on registration of same-sex couples passed under Janša government unconstitutional and basically said that heterosexual and same-sex civil unions should enjoy equal rights. But before one gets one’s hope too high it should be noted that this case referred only to the right to inheritance. Recently, the Constitutional Court showed cojones and acted pro-actively, effectively making policy, but the question at hand is, whether it will choose to do so again or will feel the need to back up and show restraint.
The final verdict, therefore, is far from conclusive. And Slovenia will thus continue to see bigots waving placards saying how grateful they are to have had a mother and a father at the same time denying some children to have either, saying how marriage is a sacred institution, denying those who want to honour it.
In the aforementioned rock opera, Jesus replied to Simon the Zealot that he doesn’t get it and that is not what Christianity is about. Well, someone should tell Primc and his gang, the political right and everyone who swears to defend the “traditional family” and the “natural order of things that taking the Lord’s name in vain and forgetting the “love thy neighbour” part is making then anything but good Christians.