AGAINST THE WARS IN CROATIA: Sacrifice of democracy in the name of marriage

Dijana Ćurković

1. prosinca 2013.

AGAINST THE WARS IN CROATIA: Sacrifice of democracy in the name of marriage

Since the foreign media began to reflect on the referendum in this Adriatic Pearl of a Country, I have decided to write a text in English, wishing to bring a more detailed domestic report for all the readers abroad interested in the subject. I leave it for you to judge if I am naive for still refusing to accept that Croatia is either traditionalist or fundamentalist religious country, regardless of the referendum outcome. The Croatia I have known my whole life is a beautiful country. It is a country like any other, it has things to be proud of, and things to be ashamed of.

The Croatia I have known my whole life is a beautiful country which had its own medieval glagolitic literacy and Christian liturgy on local dialects. Those dialects have all had developed literatures whose authors have been translated to many languages, from Marko Marulić in the 16th century till today. Croatian scientists have been members of international research teams, and our artists have performed around the globe. It is a country built on equality, because of its many identities: Mediterranean, Mid-European, Pannonian, Dinaric, Christian, Islamic, Jewish... The majority of the population is catholic, most of whom are not traditionalists, and some of whom are also LGBT. It is a country known for its great football, handball, basketball and other teams, and especially that goofy dude who was given one last wild-card chance to take the Wimbledon trophy after losing in the finals for three times - and took it!

It is a country like any other, it has things to be proud of, and things to be ashamed of. If I would have to name a famous Croat, I would most certainly say Ivo Andrić or the great Nikola Tesla, both of whom were Serbs as well Croats, but are, in my image of Croatia, more important than Josip Broz Tito or his youngest general Franjo Tuđman, who were maybe even genetically "more Croatian" or politically relevant. I guess everybody has their own definition of Croatia, since we all are different, but that does not mean that we cannot be equal, in the legal terms at least.

Nikola Tesla
Nikola Tesla - more important than Josip Broz Tito or his youngest general Franjo Tuđman (FOTO:

In the last couple of decades, the Croatia that could have built on its rich history has been systematically corrupted, manipulated and robbed of its natural and cultural treasures, our former Prime Minister is currently in prison, and yet the only history people seem to be interested in is the history of war. This started to escalate last summer, when the "bilingual" tablets were set in Vukovar according to law, but at 3 AM, which lead to an outburst of nationalistic anger. ("Bilingual" because Croatian and Serbian standard languages are both based on the same dialect, and are more similar to each other than Croatian is to its dialects or Serbian to its dialects.)

Last week a player of the Croatian national football team and the 30.000 people on the Zagreb stadium cheered the World War 2 domestic Nazi salutation, and a stadium in Split repeated it several days later. They are as much to be blamed as their teachers and the political climate, or better be said, the crisis, which made them ignorant, angry and eager to direct their hatred towards those who are different, naturally, the minorities - be it the Serbs or the LGBT population - and not its rightful addressees: the corrupted elite and the seemingly incompetent and yet very devious government, which tends to divide the people any way it can. This referendum is no difference.

Today, December 1st 2013, we will be answering a question: "Are you in favor of adding a clause to the Croatian Constitution that marriage is a union between a woman and a man?" It was brought forward by the initiative called "In the name of family", although a more appropriate name would be "In the name of marriage", since its members, mostly rich fundamentalists, have been publicly discriminating any kind of family which does not consist of a man and a woman and their naturally born child. I am not exaggerating, their debilitating slogan is: "marriage = woman + man; everything else is something else" and one of their leaders openly said that "it is unnatural for a child to be raised by a single parent", and that she "would rather give her child away to a foster home than to a gay couple".

Željka Markić
Željka Markić ("In the name of family") - rather give her child away to a foster home than to a gay couple (FOTO: Lupiga.Com)

The initiative is said to be funded by Opus Dei, an international radical catholic group, and "HRAST, a movement for successful Croatia", a right wing political party which flopped on the elections, no wonder, since it is, among other things, strongly against artificial insemination and abortion. None of the prominent members are lawyers, nor are they informed on the subjects of social and legal issues. Despite the many media and expert reflections on the suspicious credibility of the research papers they are quoting, the initiative continues to use them to brainwash the public into thinking that being gay is a choice, that it is unnatural (the classic "they cannot procreate" argument), and that this minority is in a way endangering the ways of life of the heterosexual majority.

The initiative would never succeed by itself. However, it was supported by the Catholic Church, both financially and morally. Although there are exceptions, such as theologists writing open letters against the referendum, many priests have been advising their pastures to vote "yes" on the referendum, and the signatures for the initiative were being collected during and after mass. Ironically, since the church is funded from the Croatian budget, even the LGBT population funded a discriminatory campaign against themselves, as well as all the people like me, who simply understand that the Constitution is neither a toy nor a dictionary, and who are aware of the long term consequences this might bring for the other minorities on one side, and other unscientific and immoral questions on the other.

The initiative is supported by the Catholic Church, financially and morally (FOTO: Lupiga.Com)

Regardless of the LGBT organizations' and civic complaints they received, the three branches of power in Croatia, the Parliament, the Government, and, most importantly, the protector of the Constitution, the Constitutional Court, all refused to review the constitutionality of the referendum question, and later of the legal act of the Parliament approving the referendum which will cost us around 48 million kuna or approximately 6,2 million €, and which is not on an economical or political question, but aims to limit the future realization of a currently nonexistent legal right of a minority. If it passes, it will bring prosperity to nobody, nor will it in any way improve the terrible situation in our country.

As if things were not already absurd, some of the officials have entered a campaign inviting the people to vote 'no'. Some of them have even claimed in the media that the referendum is unconstitutional, although they did not forward it to the Constitutional Court when they had the chance. They found no trouble in the procedure of collecting the signatures (680.000 out of 750.000 were legitimate), and said nothing about the meritum of the question. This means that we can theoretically have a referendum on anything, if we collect the right number of signatures. That is not the end of it: if we collect the right number of signatures, the referendum can be decided regardless of the percentage of the voting body approaching it. Three people can be the only ones voting, and the referendum is valid. The Law was changed prior to the referendum on joining the European Union, so its results would be valid regardless of the turnout of voters. There is more: the initiative which started the referendum will be the largest NGO monitoring the referendum, and has already denied access to polling places to the "unsuitable" journalists covering the campaign; and it gets to call it "a festival of democracy" to our faces.

Zoran Milanović
Zoran Milanović, prime minister refused to review the constitutionality of the referendum question (FOTO: Lupiga.Com)

Today, we are voting on whether or not we want to put a definition in our Constitution, the one describing marriage, even though no other concept is defined in the Constitution, and even though this definition is more precisely written in the Family Law: "Marriage is a legal union between a woman and a man" - which in itself is problematic, and should be redefined as "a legal union between two persons". If the clause the traditionalists are suggesting enters the Constitution, the alteration of the Family Law will be almost impossible, and a minority will continue to be unequal before the Croatian laws. If it does not pass, absolutely nothing will change, but at least there is a possibility of realizing legal equality in the future.

Legal equality is the basis of democracy. Still, a democratic mechanism is being abused by extremists, and the "leftist" liberal government is allowing it. The public discussion on the issue was shorter than 30 days, the signatures were collected in an unethical manner, the citizens were repeatedly ignored when they tried to question the heart of the problem, but none of that is important. What is important in that this is one of those things that are non-discussible, and in the end, private. Its place is not in the Constitution, which protects the family and marriage, defined by the law. Even the dictionaries say it is a legal bond, and this initiative wishes to define in the Constitution without the word "legal"!

This time the LGBT minority is being degraded and disrespected in the public. Next time it will be ... (FOTO: FaH)

In this upside-down version of Croatia, this is just another war. This time the LGBT minority is being degraded and disrespected in the public. Next time it will be the Serbs, and then probably the unfertile, and then the infidels, and then those with special needs... We have seen it before. The cheer was heard once before. That cheer is not a part of Croatian identity and has never been. Our history is more than the history of war, but these people are ignorant, they do not know or care for the culture which was always on the crossroads between the East and the West. They live in debt, and in delusion that everything is actually just fine. I do not think that these problems are strictly Croatian, but global. However, the people fail to see the internationality and sameness of our problems since we are too busy counting our differences.

I believe our experience on Earth is too short and too awe-inspiring for it to be spent fighting over trivial and even linguistic matters. We have important, common problems, solvable only by worldwide cooperation, and a great number of people is aware of this. Our planet is being polluted, our people are being exploited, our children are being indoctrinated, and none the less, we believe that we are civilized because we can rant about it on the internet or see it on TV.

If we were to concentrate on the sources of the real problems, primarily the economic inequalities, but also the social and, in this case, minority issues, it would be easier to find the right solutions together, democratically. However, we cannot have democracy without equality before the law. To put it in the debilitating words of the extremist initiative: Democracy is legal equality. Everything else is something else.