Croatia, the newest member state of the European Union, will amend its constitution to ban same-sex marriage after voters voted to ban gay marriage by a margin of nearly 2 to 1.
Croatians took to the polls on Sunday to answer the referendum question: “Do you agree that marriage is matrimony between a man and a woman?”
About 65 percent of voters said “yes,” reports The Guardian. Approximately 34 percent answered “no.”
The popularly-decided gay marriage ban is generally seen as a triumph for Croatia’s Catholic Church.
For months, the referendum has been a huge and very divisive political issue in the Central European nation of roughly 4.4 million.
In the Name of the Family, a conservative group, called for the referendum after Croatia’s democratically-elected left-liberal government proposed a bill allowing gay couples to receive certain rights and benefits as “life partners.”
Conservatives were alarmed that the law would lead to legalized gay marriage like in other EU counties such as France and the Netherlands.
Church-backed groups collected 750,000 signatures supporting the referendum against same-sex marriage.
In a letter read aloud in churches on Sunday, Cardinal Josip Bozanic proclaimed, “Marriage is the only union enabling procreation,” reports The New York Times.
According to the CIA World Factbook, about 88 percent of all Croats are Roman Catholic to the extent they practice religion.
Liberal groups argued that banning same-sex marriage oppresses minorities and violates basic human rights.
Croatian president Ivo Josipovic was among the opponents of the constitutional amendment, notes The Guardian.
“We don’t need this kind of a referendum,” Josipovic said. “Defining marriage between a man and a woman doesn’t belong to the constitution. A nation is judged by its attitude toward minorities.”
On Monday, Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said the Croatian government will press ahead with the law allowing civil partnerships for same-sex couples. Under the law, gay couples will have inheritance rights, for example, and hospital visitation rights.
However, notes the Times, the leftist government’s bill won’t allow gay couples to adopt children.
The European Union has offered no official comment on the referendum.
Croatia became an EU member in July 2013.