Slovenian lawmakers on Wednesday adopted a bill recognizing gay partnerships, making conservative, predominantly Roman Catholic Slovenia one of the few countries in Europe to legalize such unions. Of the 47 deputies present in the 90-seat chamber, 44 ruling coalition deputies voted for the government-proposed bill, which allows same-sex couples to register their relationship although not officially marry. Three lawmakers, from a nationalist party, were against it.
The opposition and gay rights groups sharply criticized the bill, insisting that it fell short of granting enough rights to gays. The law entitles gay partners to inherit each other's property and have the same rights as a family member if their partner is hospitalized. But gay rights groups' demands that couples be allowed to adopt a child or have access to artificial insemination were firmly rejected by the government.
The opposition Liberal Democrats and Social Democrats stormed out of the session before the vote after a furious debate on the subject. Mitja Blazic, of the gay rights group Society for Integration of Homosexuals, welcomed the law for "ending an era" in which gay rights were completely ignored. But on the other hand, he said, the law is still "discriminatory" against gays because it gives them too few rights compared with those of heterosexual couples.
But the bill also was opposed by some rightist deputies, who charged that it went too far by attempting to give equal rights to homosexual couples. Srecko Prijatel, from the rightist Slovene National Party, said he voted against the bill because he didn't "want my children, or any other children" being encouraged to register their homosexual relation. Alojz Sok, from the ruling Slovene Democratic Party, said after the vote he was "proud" to see that the government "gathered strength to solve the problem that existed for a long time." Slovenia, a former Yugoslav country, joined the European Union last year.
In Europe only the Netherlands and Belgium allow same-sex marriages. Spain is also expected to legalize same-sex marriages despite fierce opposition by the Catholic Church. (AP)