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Slovenian lawmakers debate gay partnerships

Slovenian lawmakers debate gay partnerships

Slovenian lawmakers on Friday debated--nervously at times--a government-drafted bill recognizing same-sex partnerships, an advanced step for the conservative, predominantly Roman Catholic country. The center-right government "aims to regulate the position of gay couples in legal terms and enable them to fulfill their rights," deputy labor, family, and social welfare minister Marjeta Cotman told the parliament. The bill immediately drew criticism: Gay rights groups and some opposition lawmakers said it gave same-sex couples too few rights, while some conservative lawmakers blasted it as too liberal. The government decided that "the fewer [rights], the better," said Majda Sirca, an opposition Liberal Party lawmaker. "It's a hypocritical bill," Sirca told the parliament. "The government will pride itself on allowing recognition of gay partnerships, while it in fact allowed them only those rights that suit the government." The bill stipulates that gay couples would be allowed to register their relationships, but not officially marry. Registered partners would be entitled to inherit each other's property and have the same rights as a family member if their partner is hospitalized. The demand by gay rights groups that couples be allowed to adopt a child, or have access to artificial insemination, was firmly rejected by the government. A conservative New Slovenia Party deputy, Franc Capuder, insisted the bill gives gay couples just enough rights. "We don't deny them their rights, but we cannot make homosexual rights equal to [those of] heterosexual couples," he said. Bostjan Zagorac, from the small but outspoken right-wing Slovene National Party, dismissed the bill as pandering to "please gay groups." He also insisted a "list of homosexuals" be created so they would not "manipulate" the proposed rights. The issue is contentious in Slovenia, where about 80% of its 2 million residents are Roman Catholics and where conservative, center-right parties won elections in October. It raised tensions in parliament, with several deputies exchanging angry remarks at one point. The bill will be debated again in one to two months, when it is expected to be adopted by the governing coalition, which holds a majority in the 90-seat parliament. Some opposition parties also support it. (AP)

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