Croatian government plans to legalize same-sex partnerships in the coming weeks, despite internal divisions.

The bill allowing gay couples the right to civil partnerships –presented in February- will be submitted to parliament’s vote before the summer break, Croatian government plans.

In December 2013, 66 percent of Croats voted in favour of the introduction of marriage’s definition in the Constitution as “the union between a man and a woman”, banning the possibility of same-sex marriages.

According to constitutional provisions, the result of a referendum -this one launched by the Catholic group U ime obitelji (“On behalf of the family”)- is binding[1]. Despite the support of two third of the parliament to the proposal, the constitution is not updated yet.

Immediately after the result Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic and the President of Republic Ivo Josipovic had expressed their dissent, arguing respectively how “the referendum threaten people’s right to happiness and choice” and “the referendum result must not be the reason for new divisions”.

Actually, this consultation was characterized by a low turnout, only 37.9 % of the electorate: government introduced a draft amendment to change the referendum criteria, especially the quorum percentage, to avoid that a minority of the electorate may modify constitutional framework. In addition, the bill would exclude the possibility to submit minority rights and human rights issues to popular are will: however, this initiative –facing a strong opposition from conservative fringes of civil society- came to nothing.

In February, the government presented the new law with the aim to recognize the registration of same-sex partnerships in order to ensure gay couples the same rights of the heterosexual ones -except the right to adopt- specifically regarding inheritance, pensions, tax and medical care. It would complete the current legal framework –set in 2003- limited to informal life partnerships[2], which grants only joint property and financial support’s rights.

After ten years of NGOs advocacy (the first gay pride in Croatia took place in 2002 in Zagreb) LGBT community welcomes this news as a breakthrough: “The law gives couples legal recognition, all major rights, and is satisfactory in every way”, campaigner Daniel Martinovic declared.

If everything goes well, the first same-sex partnerships could be registered at the end of July: happiness wins.

 by Cristiano Barducci & Charly Viguier

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