710,000 Croatian Citizens Want Their Say in Marriage Referendum

The civil initiative “In the Name of the Family“ brings together individuals, families and civil society organizations committed to promotion of universal human values, as well as religious associations, communities and movements – all those who hold the view that marriage is a union between a man and a woman only.

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On 12 to 26 May 2013, the Initiative had made it possible for the citizens of the Republic of Croatia to express their view on whether they think a referendum should be held to incorporate into the Constitution of the RoC a provision to the effect that marriage is a living union between one man and one woman, in the form of a referendum question: “Do you support introduction of a provision into the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia to the effect that marriage is a living union of a woman and a man?“. 

In 15 days, which is how long signatures may be collected under the Referendum Act, over 710,000 citizens’ signatures were collected, clearly showing that Croatian citizens want this important question to be discussed and decided on the highest of levels, and triggering the first „popular“ referendum in Croatia. At least 710,000 citizens who signed the petition, represent 20 percent of the electorate, whereas Croatian law requires that petitioners secure the signatures of 10 percent of the electorate. The citizens of Croatia, apart from being able to have their say through their parliamentary representatives, now have an opportunity to participate directly – in a binding referendum.  

Over the course of 15 days, more than 6,000 volunteers and 1,200 coordinators in more than 2,000 locations across Croatia, selflessly donated their time in order for the citizens of Croatia to be able to state their view. In doing so, they were exposed to insults, humiliation and physical attacks. The books with citizens’ signatures were torn, the webpage was hacked and the logo of the initiative „In the Name of the Family“ was copied by LGBT groups in order to create confusion among the citizens wishing to express their opinion. In faculties and some other sites where signatures were being collected, they set up their own booths nearby, and with singing and noise tried to distract and deter the citizens from expressing their view on the need to call a referendum. Over 50 attacks across Croatia were reported to the police, mostly in Zagreb and Rijeka.

The civil initiative “In the Name of the Family“ was supported by all the major religious communities in the RoC and the majority of political parties, many civil society organisations and reputable individuals. Among them were: Olympic silver medal winner and two times world champion in high jump Blanka Vlašić and her coach and father Joško Vlašić, Croatian football NT manager Igor Štimac, musicians Marko Perković Thompson and  Pero Galić, frontman of the band Opća Opasnost, Rafael Dropulić, Marko Bujanović, caricaturist Srećko Puntarić Felix, waterpolo great Dubravko Šimenc, theatrologist Sanja Nikčević, actor Adam Končić and many other notables.

Despite, on one hand, the hooligan attacks, condemned by the Croatian Helsinki Committee, and on the other, the attempts by the ruling administration to discourage the citizens from exercising their right and expressing their opinion, the aim of the civil initiative „In the Name of the Family“ is to make sure that the citizens of Croatia have their opportunity to engage in an act of direct democracy and determine the legal and value framework for the issues of marriage, family and adoption of children.

“We are satisfied that the laws and the Constitution of Croatia guarantee the protection of civil and human rights of all citizens of the RoC, irrespectively of their nationality, religious affiliation or sexual orientation. We respect the dignity of each and every person and feel that it is precisely with an opportunity for the citizens to express their view on such an important aspect of the society as marriage, in a most democratic of all procedures – a referendum – that justice will be confirmed as the very basis of permanent piece in the Croatian society”, eljka Markić, MD, explained on behalf of the civil initiative “In the Name of the Family”.

The Initiative expressed concern over the democratic deficit observed in the behaviour of the ruling coalition parties. Only a month before Croatia’s accession to the EU – the Minister of Administration changed the official number of voters in Croatia  (3,760,000 citizens of Croatia were eligible to vote in the recent elections for EU parliament, and now, less than two months later, the Minister claims the electorate for this referendum exceeds 4,560,000, a number which almost certainly includes the deceased, “ghosts” and double votes), whereas Minister of Foreign Affairs Vesna Pusić declares the referendum does not have binding, only consultative function, and the Deputy Prime Minister Stazić proposes that the people’s vote in a referendum is not binding upon the government – contrary to very clear Constitutional provision which says the referendum is binding.

The civil initiative “In the Name of the Family” expects to submit to the Croatian Parliament next week a referendum-triggering petition with over 710,000 signatures.

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