Gay rights supporters protest in Croatia

Hundreds of gay rights supporters in conservative and mainly Catholic Croatia have staged a protest, on the eve of a constitutional referendum that could outlaw same-sex marriage in the EU’s newest member state.

More than 1000 people braved the cold and rainy weather to gather in a square in downtown Zagreb for a protest march against Sunday’s vote, which they see as discriminatory.

‘Voters will decide if they want members of a minority group to be permanently labelled second class citizens,’ gay rights activist Sanja Juras said on Saturday.

Demonstrators taking part in the ‘I vote against’ march carried banners in rainbow colours, reading: ‘Homosexuality is not a choice but hatred is’ and ‘Let’s protect all loves’.

The referendum on whether to amend the country’s constitution to define marriage as a ‘union between a woman and a man’ is the result of a Church-backed initiative. Croatia’s constitution currently does not define marriage.

The vote has sparked a heated public debate and has split the country’s 4.2 million inhabitants.

Many conservatives in Croatia, which joined the European Union this year, began fearing that same-sex marriage would be allowed in the country after the centre-left government announced a bill enabling gay couples to register as ‘life partners’.

In May, the Church-backed In the Name of the Family group collected over 700,000 signatures seeking a nationwide vote on same-sex unions.

The government, human rights activists and prominent public figures have said they are against the referendum, urging people to cast a ‘no’ vote.

But in a country where almost 90 per cent of population are Roman Catholics, the Church has vehemently urged followers to vote ‘yes’.

Source – Sky News