LJUBLJANA, Slovenia -- Slovenians rejected in a national referendum on Sunday a new family law that included a highly contested clause that would allow same-sex couples to adopt children in some cases.
The law drafted by Slovenia's former center-left government – and opposed by conservatives close to the Catholic Church – would have allowed gay couples to adopt the biological children of their partners. It did not allow the adoption of children from a third party.
With 98 percent of the vote counted, about 55 percent of those who took part in the referendum rejected the law, while about 45 supported it, the state referendum commission said. Turnout was low, about 26 percent.
The result meant that the new family law will not be applied and a new one cannot be drafted within a year.
Unlike its Balkan neighbors, Serbia and Croatia – where gays often face verbal and physical abuse – the small Alpine nation and European Union member is relatively tolerant of homosexuality. In 2006, Slovenia allowed official registration of same-sex relationships.
A conservative children rights group collected 42,000 signatures by February to challenge the law in the referendum. It argued that the law is against traditional family values and that gay couples should not be allowed any adoption rights.
Roman Catholic, Serbian Orthodox and Muslim communities in Slovenia also jointly signed a petition before the referendum, asking Slovenes to reject the law.
"Marriage and family are of utmost importance for the development of the human person and society," the petition said. "For this reason, we all have an obligation to protect the values of marriage and of family as a community of a husband and a wife, and children."
Those who argued in favor of the new law said the gay adoption clause has been unfairly thrust into the public focus in the months leading to the referendum, overshadowing other provisions that further protect children rights in general.
Dusan Stojanovic contributed to this report from Belgrade, Serbia.