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Gay marriage up for referendum in Slovenia

Slovenians have voted in a referendum to decide if the former Yugoslav republic should become Europe's first ex-communist country to allow same-sex marriage. The poll follows marriage equality laws passed in March.

Polling stations closed at at 7:00 p.m. (1800 UTC) Sunday with citizens asked to decide on the issue that pits supporters of equal rights for homosexuals against those who see homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle and a threat to traditional values.

The first results are expected later on Sunday.

Slovenia's parliament had approved legislation in March redefining marriage as a "union of two" instead of being a "union of a man and a woman," effectively granting homosexual couples equal rights to marry and the right to adopt children.

But a Catholic Church-backed movement calling itself "Children Are At Stake" quickly gathered the 40,000 signatures necessary to put the question to the public in a referendum for the second time since 2012. The previous effort

to allow same-sex marriage was rejected.

If the "no" camp prevails, then the civil code would be changed back, although existing legislation, which allows registered civil partnerships but not the adoption of children, would remain in force.

20 percent turnout required

Slowenien Referendum über Homo-Ehe

An unidentified couple cast there ballot at a polling station in Ljubljana, Slovenia

Vojko, a retired resident of the coastal resort city of Koper, said he supports gay marriage and considered the referendum a waste.

"This is throwing money away," he told the AFP news agency. "Of course I'm for it, but if it turns out to be a 'no,' the world will laugh at us."

President Borut Pahor and Prime Minister Miro Cerar's ruling Modern Centre Party (SMC) support the "yes" camp, saying gay marriage would eliminate discrimination and grant equal rights to all of Slovenia's 2 million citizens.

A poll released by state television on Friday gave the "No" vote 55.5 percent support, with a projected turnout of 46 percent. In order for the result to be binding, at least 20 percent of eligible voters must take part in the referendum.

jar/sms (AFP, AP)

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