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21.09.2009 17:27
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New Family Law Allowing Gay Marriage Stirs Controversy

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Labour, Family and Social Affairs Minister Ivan Svetlik (centre) and Justice Minister Ales Zalar (right) presenting to the public a family law bill, which among other things equalises same-sex unions with other family unions and allows gay couples to adopt children.
File photo.

Ljubljana, 21 September (STA) - Labour, Family and Social Affairs Minister Ivan Svetlik presented a family law bill to the public on Monday, saying it was aimed at equalising same-sex unions with other family unions in Slovenia. The draft allows gay couples to adopt children, which has already caused a stir in the opposition.

As regards marriage, whose proposed definition in the new legislation is a union of two persons of the same or different sex, the bill maintains the principle of equality of spouses, Svetlik said as he opened a public debate on the bill.

He added that the new legislation wanted to put children and their benefit into focus. The bill therefore prohibits corporate punishment of children and introduces the institution of children's advocate.

The powers related to child protection measures would be transferred from social work centres to courts, said the minister. He added that their decisions would be much more credible and that such decisions would not be as problematic as so far.

Justice Minister Ales Zalar said that the bill was a joint project of the two ministries, adding that the reform in the area of family law had to be supported by adequate changes to procedural rules.

"This is why we will file into the legislative procedure also amendments to the civil procedure act and amendments to the non-litigious civil procedure act," Zalar announced.

According to him, the rules of non-litigious procedure, which is more favourable to clients and more protective to children, will be applied in the transfer of powers related to child protection measures to courts.

Zalar also emphasised as an important news that an appeal would not postpone the implementation of a court's decision if this was necessary for the protection of the child. The power to decide on child adoption will also be transferred to courts.

Regarding the equalisation of the same-sex union with other family unions, Zalar pointed to the case law at the Constitutional Court, "which explicitly said that sexual orientation is a forbidden criteria of differentiation under our constitution and therefore not an appropriate basis for establishing any double regimes".

Ana Vodicar of the Family Directorate said regarding the prohibition of corporate punishment to children that the provision had been created also with help of recommendations from the Council of Europe.

Under the new legislation, same-sex couples would be able also to become foster parents. Labour Ministry State Secretary Anja Kopac Mrak noted that the new legislation only grants gay couples equal possibilities regarding adoption or foster care procedures, while the final decision was a matter of expert assessment.

Janez Jansa, the head of the biggest opposition party, the Democrats (SDS), doubts that the SDS will endorse the possibility that gay couples adopt children.

Jansa's personal opinion is that such a solution "does not belong to the Slovenian legal framework under certain laws of nature". He added that some of the proposals were good and that they will get support from the SDS.

President of the opposition National Party (SNS) Zmago Jelincic told STA that the family law was already properly regulated in Slovenia. According to him, the party will not agree that same-sex couples are allowed to adopt children.

"Nature created life in a different way," Jelincic said that "if they cannot have children, then they cannot have them". He expects a heated debate both in the public and the parliament and assesses that a referendum could also be a possibility.

"This is a disaster," opposition People's Party (SLS) president Radovan Zerjav said in a press statement, adding that the proposal would raise ideological debates in the time when Slovenia should deal with other problems.

SLS deputy group leader Jakob Presecnik said that the party welcomed the drafting of a new family law, "because it is necessary", adding that the party had problem with the part where same-sex couple's rights were being equalised with those of heterosexual unions.

SLS member Ales Primc said that legislation envisaging the possibility that gay couples adopt children or get children through in-vitro fertilisation could not enter into force in Slovenia.

Primc, who had campaigned in 2001 to ban single women from accessing in-vitro fertilisation, reckons he would manage to convince the proponents of the legislation during the public debate to withdraw such a provision. He added that the final resort was a referendum.

Gay rights activist Mitja Blazic meanwhile told STA that he "absolutely welcomes" the proposal, while adding he expected from the conservative part of the right-wing to oppose to the bill and "build up moral panic and threaten with a referendum".

Blazic noted that the contents of the law followed the corresponding decision of the Constitutional Court and implemented the constitutional principle of equality and non-discrimination.

The non-parliamentary conservative party New Slovenia (NSi) reacted striongly, saying the government was abusing the institute of the family law and encroaching upon the fundamental family orientations and tradition of Slovenian society as far as the definition of the family is concerned.

According to NSi vice-president Anton Kokalj, "this is only a measure saying thanks to a small group of voters who endorsed this government a year ago".

The head of the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), Karl Erjavec, meanwhile explained for STA that the party still had not discussed and made a position on the family law bill. "My personal opinion is that such a low should be supported," he added.

The ruling Social Democrats (SD) said in a press release that the new family law introduces an important principle - the protection of the rights of children, which have to be the guarantee and pre-condition which provides the foundation of all other relationships.

Coalition Liberal Democrats (LDS) head Katarina Kresal welcomed the family law bill, saying that it would gradually eliminate discrimination, as already envisaged in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

21.09.2009 17:27

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