The Inquisition Returns to Slovakia

Article published on Sept. 22, 2014
Article published on Sept. 22, 2014

Life isn’t easy for minorities in Slovakia. The country stands out amongst its neighbours for its intolerance of homosexuals — it could even rival Russia. Tension is mounting within the population and a referendum could change things dramatically.

The campaign waged against homosexuals has been going on for some time already. Thanks to the agreements made between the conservative KDH and the ruling social democrats from the SMER party, Christian groups have successfully had their initiatives amended into the constitution. Last June, the constitution was expanded with this sentence: “Marriage is the unique bond between a man and a woman. The Slovak Republic defends marriage through all necessary means and keeps it in good order.” And that’s not all. In September, Alliance for Family announced that they had collected enough signatures to call a referendum that could forbid same-sex couples from adopting children, ban unions other than marriage and stop children from being forced to attend sexual education classes if parents object to their content.

Unconstitutional?

“We have been convinced of the unconstitutionality of this initiative since the start. The goal of its initiators is to limit a part of the population’s access to legal institutions like marriage, adoption, and civil unions — institutions related to the right to privacy and starting a family. What they really want to do is block any of these possibilities in the future,” stated the leader of Being Different in response to the referendum request. President Andrej Kiska got on the petition initiators’ and the Church’s wrong side by submitting the referendum request to the Constitutional Council to verify whether it is legal or not. Former Minister of Justice Lucia Žitňanská also reacted: “As a lawyer, I think that the questions the referendum asks deal with individual liberties and fundamental rights. I read several opinions on the subject and talked with constitutional rights specialists to reach this conclusion.”

"Worse Than Murderers" 

Meanwhile, tensions are escalating between referendum supporters and opponents outside of the legislative arena. Last week, a video of Catholic priest Marián Kuffa uploaded by the newsmagazine týždeň (Week) caused an uproar. The priest shocked people when he said that “homosexuals are sometimes worse than murderers.” He stated this before calling homosexuals “serial killers” that are responsible for “the genocide of the nation.” The video was taken down after public pressure. A group uniting decision makers with artists was quickly formed to face this threat to constitutional rights. Signs with rainbow logos and the faces of Slovak media and cultural personalities appeared on the streets. “If I was a lesbian, would you stop reading my books?” asked publisher Evita Urbaníková. “If I was gay, would you stop listening to my music?” inquired musician Robo Papp. Romana Schlesinger from the Queer Leaders Forum is thrilled about this campaign. “We are very happy about this support and we hope that everyone will think about the questions on this referendum with a clear head. Love and understanding will take us a lot further than constantly categorising people,” she said in a statement published on O Médiách.  

On their end, conservatives are preparing for battle. “Alliance for Family met with several different party leaders to discuss pro-family policies and support for the referendum. Three parties (OL'aNO, a party of independents; KDH, a conservative party; and the SNS, far right) all expressed their interest in having several members of parliament help us,” stated Alliance member Anton Chromík. "This referendum will not take away rights from anyone. It is simply important for us to preserve a status quo within our society whereby Slovak moms and dads can speak freely about what’s best for children,” the group explained.

Thanks to the president of the Slovak Republic, the referendum is now in the hands of the Constitutional Council. He will decide whether or not Slovaks vote against the rights of their homosexual fellow citizens at the same time as the municipal elections.