On Sunday Slovenia held a referendum on marriage equality. The country was allowed to vote on the future of a law that would define marriage as a union between two consenting adults rather than one man and one woman.
A similar vote had taken place in 2012 and failed. It was a negative result but the percentage difference wasn’t huge (10%) and the general mood of the public seemed to be shifting in favour of acceptance.
Predictably, the opposition spewed the standard narrative in favour of the ‘traditional family unit.’ Homosexuality is unnatural. How will we explain gay families to children? If we start going down this road what next? People will be marrying cows! (Yes. I am not even joking. Cows).
It worked of course, but not in an overwhelming way. There’s only so many times you can spew old hate before people start to question its validity.
So three years on, things were looking good. With ongoing civil rights victories around the world came proof from other countries that the fallout from marriage equality was negligible, if anything it was providing a positive change!
And so the voting day came.
Sunday 20th December 2015 was the day Slovenia was going to join this ever growing list of countries celebrating love. It had to happen. It just had to.
I followed the first results as they came in. Preliminary figures were putting it at 52-48 in favour of the bill. Too close to call for sure, but signs were certainly looking good.
Then came the blow. The final standing.
63.5 – 36.5 In favour of No.
We lost. By a margin of almost 30%.
I stood like a statue as the figures flashed up on my phone, frozen in horror. All of that energy. The campaigning, the outpourings of support. The filming, the debating, the hope. For nothing.
Friends from all over the world offered condolences as my Slovenian brothers and sisters shed angry tears with clenched fists and readied themselves for the inevitable onslaught of negativity the next few days would bring.
How could this happen? In 2015? People callously voting to come between human beings and their right to equality?
I know I’m not Slovenian. I’ve never even been there. But it felt personal somehow. Part of that is because I personally worked on campaign videos for the referendum and part of it is because I have Slovenian friends.
Honestly though, it felt personal because it is.
The people voting against bills like this are not simply putting a circle around a word, they are sending a message to everyone who is different; everybody in the LGBT community who doesn’t fit into their tired idea of what ‘normality’ is; they’re telling us that we are second class citizens. That something about us is inherently wrong. That we don’t deserve equality because somehow we are less deserving than them.
Somehow less human.
It’s hard to believe this kind of result can still happen in countries in the EU. In my little bubble of English liberalism and left-wing London it seems absurd. That is until you remember that actually gay marriage has only been legal in this country since 2014 and civil partnerships only reared their head 10 years before. That being gay was a criminal act until 1967 and used to be considered a mental illness. Things are changing yes, but it’s all been in the past few decades and there’s still a long way to go. Even here.
The thing is, whether you’re gay or not, the basic principles of human decency still exist. Equality should never be a dirty word whether you’re talking about gender, sex, orientation, race, religion or lack thereof. Equality is a basic human right. One we are not even close to reaching.
Like it or not gay people are everywhere. They are your doctors, nurses, politicians, corporate leaders and inspirational speakers. They are your bosses, your employees, your mums and dads. Children, grandchildren, friends and acquaintances. And yes, they are your fashion designers, personal buyers and hairdressers too. They also run Apple. Turns out computer technology and the gays are a winning combination.
The point is, we are people, just like you.
Last Sunday was a blow to the forward motion of equality but it wasn’t the end.
History is littered with such blows and the inevitable uprising that follows. Just look at America. If it wasn’t for the hideousness of Proposition 8 back in 2008 taking gay couples rights away it’s unlikely the supreme court would have ruled same sex marriage a nationwide civil right earlier this year.
For as long as there is injustice there will always be people to fight it, and as long as there are people to fight it progress will eventually be made.
So to my Slovenian brothers and sisters. Take this week to mourn. Give yourselves time to cry and clench your fists and punch the walls because in a matter of time those fists will be punching the air.
We’ll win this. And I mean we. Because this isn’t just a fight for Slovenia, this is a fight for Love.
And you cannot argue with love xxx