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 JanÅ¡a and the SDS-NSi combo is no more a given. Especially since the Roman Catholic Church withdrew its unconditional support for JanÅ¡a’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, AleÅ¡ 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 JanÅ¡a’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…