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Despite being one of the most liberal countries in Eastern Europe, Slovenia has rejected marriage equality in a popular vote.
In a referendum on the nation's marriage equality law, 36.5 percent voted to uphold it, with 63.5 percent against it, The Washington Post reports. Voting had been going on since Tuesday and concluded Sunday. Parliament had passed the law in March, but it had not yet taken effect, and opponents gathered enough petition signatures to put it to a popular vote.
Supporters of marriage equality vowed to try again. "It's not over yet. Sooner or later the law will be accepted," legislator Violeta Tomic told the Associated Press. She is with the United Left party, which introduced the bill.
Some saw the law's repeal as a sign of increasing opposition to the nation's leftist government and growing sympathy with conservative neighbors, such as Russia. Also, the Roman Catholic Church may have played a role in largely Catholic Slovenia. Pope Francis, meeting last week with Slovenian pilgrims at the Vatican, did not mention the law specifically but urged them "to support the family."
Marriage equality opponents relied heavily on the discredited argument that children fare less well when raised by same-sex couples than opposite-sex ones. The defeat of the law is "a victory for our children," said Ales Primc, head of the opposition group Children Are at Stake, according to the AP. That group gathered the signatures to force the referendum.
Upholding the law would have made Slovenia the first former communist country with marriage equality. The nation, which has offered same-sex civil partnerships since 2006, also rejected expanded rights for same-sex couples in a 2012 referendum. In that vote, Slovenians rejected a law that would have allowed these couples many of the rights of marriage. Among other things, if one partner had biological children, the other partner would have been able to adopt them.
In 2013, another Eastern European country rejected marriage equality by popular vote, with Croatians opposing a constitutional change to allow same-sex marriage. Croatia was once part of Yugoslavia, also a former communist nation.