Speaking to Slovenian pilgrims at the Vatican Wednesday, the pope did not specifically mention the marriage law or the vote, but he told them he encourages “everyone, especially those with public responsibility, to support the family, a structural reference point for the life of society,” Agence France-Presse reports.
The Eastern European country’s Parliament passed the marriage equality law in March. However, opponents of the law, led by a Catholic-backed group called Children Are at Stake, gathered enough petition signatures to put it before voters. Voting began Tuesday, and the results will be released Sunday, reports Politico’s European edition.
To rescind the law, a majority of voters must cast ballots for repeal, and those voters must represent at least 20 percent of the electorate, according to AFP. A recent poll found the nation evenly divided on the law, with 42 percent of respondents for it and 41 percent against, Politico reports.
If Slovenia upholds the law, it would be a breakthrough in the region. Among other Eastern European countries, Hungary offers same-sex couples many of the rights associated with marriage, and some others, like the Czech Republic, offer limited rights, according to Freedom to Marry. But they all stop short of marriage.
Children Are at Stake and its allies are arguing against marriage equality by claiming children are less well off with same-sex parents than with opposite-sex ones, notes Human Rights Watch. This assertion is widely discredited by scholarly studies.
Slovenian President Borut Pahor supports marriage equality but has not taken a major role in the debate, according to Politico. A more vocal supporter is Violeta Bulc, the nation’s representative to the European Commission, who recently filmed an ad urging voters to uphold the law. “I am for an open and integrated society. A society that respects diversity. … Vote yes!” Bulc says in the ad, according to Politico.