LGBT rights in Croatia

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LGBT rights in Croatia
Location of  Croatia  (dark green)– in Europe  (light green & dark grey)– in the European Union  (light green)  –  [Legend]
Location of  Croatia  (dark green)

– in Europe  (light green & dark grey)
– in the European Union  (light green)  –  [Legend]

Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1977, age of consent equalized in 1998
Gender identity/expression

Changing legal gender is permitted by the law.

Discrimination towards transgender people is banned.
Military service Gays and lesbians allowed to openly serve[1]
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression protection since 2003 (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of
Unregistered cohabitation since 2003,
Life partnership since 2014
Constitution defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, banning same-sex marriage.
Adoption As an individual,
Partner-guardianship (de facto step-child adoption) since 2014

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Croatia have expanded in recent years but LGBT persons may still face some legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity have been legal in Croatia since 1977. According to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), in 2014 LGBT rights in Croatia were ranked 12th out of 49 observed European countries.[2][3] Croatia is among 11 member countries that make up a LGBT Core Group at U.N. on Ending Violence and Discrimination.[4]

Since the introduction of Life Partnership act in 2014 same-sex couples in Croatia have been equal to married couples in everything except adoption. However, an institution similar to step-child adoption called partner-guardianship has been created. Same-sex couples were first recognized in 2003 through a law on unregistered cohabitations. Croatia bans all anti-gay discrimination. In a 2013 referendum Croatians approved changes to Croatia's constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, effectively banning same-sex marriage.[5]

Left-wing, centre-left, and green political parties are proponents of LGBT rights, while right-wing, centre-right political parties and some NGOs like "In the name of the family", as well as the Roman Catholic Church oppose LGBT rights.


There is no record of how homosexuality was specifically regarded in the Kingdom of Croatia that existed between the years 925 and 1102, after which Croatia entered a personal union with the Kingdom of Hungary. The Penal Code established on 27 May 1852 in the Habsburg Kingdom of Croatia (the first modern one in Croatian language) did not specify homosexuality as a crime.[6] However, a subsequent draft of the new Penal Code for 1879 for the Kingdom of Croatia-Slavonia did suggest male homosexual acts be punished with up to five years of prison, but the draft was never adopted.[7]

During World War II, while homosexuals were among the Holocaust victims of Europe, there was no specific legislation enacted by the fascist regime governing the Independent State of Croatia. However, the communist Yugoslav Partisans did issue several death sentences during the war against partisans whose homosexuality was revealed.[8][9]

Partisan court martial verdict from 1944: Partisan captain Josip Mardešić found guilty and sentenced to death because of his homosexuality

During the period when Croatia was made part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, male homosexual acts were made illegal and punishable with up to two years of prison under the Penal Code of 9 March 1951.[10] However, the repression of homosexuals in Yugoslavia effectively began immediately after the end of the war. Homosexuals, labeled by communists as "enemies of the system", were also prohibited from joining the Communist Party of Yugoslavia.

This situation changed when Croatia and other republics gained more control over their own legislature. Constitutional reforms in Yugoslavia in 1974 resulted in the abolishment of the federal Penal Code, thus allowing every republic to create its own. The Socialist Republic of Croatia created its own Code in 1977, and decriminalized homosexual activity. The Croatian Medical Chamber removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1973 - four years before the introduction of the new Penal Code, and seventeen years before the World Health Organisation did the same.[9] Even though being a member of Yugoslavia meant Croatia was a socialist country, it was never under the Iron Curtain, thus making it a relatively open country that was influenced by social changes in the wider developed world.

The 1980s brought change towards the visibility of LGBT people. In 1985, Toni Marošević became the first openly gay media person, and briefly hosted a radio show on Youth Radio (Croatian: Omladinski radio) that dealt with marginal socio-political issues. He later revealed that he had been asked on several occasions by the League of Communists of Croatia to form a LGBT faction of the party. The first lesbian association (Lila initiative) in Croatia was formed in 1989, but ceased to exist a year later.[9]

The 1990s brought a slowdown in terms of LGBT rights as a result of the breakup of Yugoslavia followed by the Croatian War of Independence, when most of the Croatian LGBT people, then involved in various feminist, peace and green organizations, joined the Anti-war campaign of Croatia. Following the independence of Croatia in 1991, the first LGBT association under the name of LIGMA was formed in 1992, but existed only until 1997 as the socio-political climate was not mature enough yet to deal with LGBT rights. The only other significant change that happened in the 1990s was the equalizing of the age of consent for sexual activity in 1998. The situation stagnated until the year 2000 when the coalition mostly consisted of centre-left political parties led by Ivica Račan overtook power from the HDZ after their ten-year rule.[9]

The 2000s were a turning point for LGBT history in Croatia with the formation of several LGBT associations (with LORI in 2000 and ISKORAK in 2002 being the first ones), the introduction of unregistered cohabitations, outlawing all anti-LGBT discrimination (including recognition of a hate crime based on sexual orientation and gender identity), and the first gay pride in Zagreb in 2002. Several political parties as well as both national presidents elected in 2000s have supported LGBT rights, with some of the politicians participating in LGBT prides ever since.[9]

The 2010s have so far been marked with the second gay pride in Croatia in Split, the third one in Osijek, the return of the centre-left coalition after an eight-year rule of coalition led by the conservative HDZ between the years 2003 and 2011, a referendum on which the voters supported the proposed amendment to the Constitution that defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and a Life Partnership Act that made same-sex couples equal to married couples in everything except full adoption.[9][11] .[12] [12]

Most recently, the establishment of a lobby group, "In the Name of the Family", led the call to change the Croatian constitution so that marriage can only be defined as a union between a man and a woman. The Roman Catholic Church played a prominent role in this political campaign, and Cardinal Josip Bozanić of Zagreb issued a letter to be read in churches reminding people that "Marriage is the only union enabling procreation". Subsequently a national referendum was held on 1 December 2013 where voters approved the change. Franko Dota, a gay rights activist, criticised the results, arguing that it was intended "to humiliate the gay population, and to strike against the progress of the past decades". Stephen Bartulica, a proponent of the referendum and a professor at the Catholic University of Croatia, said that "the vote was an attempt to show that there is strong opposition" to "gay marriage and adoption by gays". The Prime Minister, Zoran Milanovic, was unhappy that the referendum had taken place, saying, "I think it did not make us any better, smarter or prettier."[12]

Law regarding same-sex sexual activity[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity was legalised in 1977.[13][14] setting the age of consent at 18 for homosexuals and 14 for heterosexuals.[15] It was equalised in 1998 when it was specified as 14 by the Croatian Penal Code, but that has been changed to 15 for both homosexuals and heterosexuals with the introduction of a new Penal Code on 1 January 2013.[16][17] There is a close-in-age exemption of three years.[18]

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

Laws regarding same-sex partnerships in Europe
  Same-sex marriage
  Foreign marriages recognized
  Other type of partnership
  Unregistered cohabitation
  Constitution limits marriage to opposite-sex couples

Includes laws that have not yet gone into effect.

In 2003, one year after the first LGBT pride in Croatia, the then-ruling coalition consisted of mostly centre-left parties, has managed to agree and passed a law on same-sex unions. The law granted same-sex partners who have been cohabiting for at least 3 years similar rights as enjoyed by unmarried cohabiting opposite-sex partners in terms of inheritance and financial support, but not the right to adopt, or any other right included in family law, as this law was not part of it, but rather separate law has been created. Registering those relationship was not allowed, nor have they included rights in terms of tax, joint properties, health insurance, pensions etc.[19]

In early 2005 Croatian Parliament rejected registered partnerships proposed by Šime Lučin (SDP) and independent Ivo Banac.[20] MP Lucija Čikeš, a member of then ruling HDZ, called for the proposal to be dropped because "all universe is heterosexual, from an atom and the smallest particle, from a fly to an elephant". Another HDZ MP objected on grounds "85% of the population considers itself Catholic and the Church is against heterosexual and homosexual equality". Medical profession, physical profession, and media did not support these statements, warning that all the members of Parliament have duty to vote according to the Constitution which bans discrimination.

Detail from the extract #00001 from the register of life partnerships issued on 5th September 2014

On 11 May 2012, Croatian prime minister Zoran Milanović announced for further expansion of rights for same-sex couples through a new law which would replace the existing unregistered cohabitations. Sabor passed Life Partnership Act on 15 July 2014. This law made same-sex couples equal to married couples in everything except adoption. However, an institution similar to step-child adoption called partner-guardian has been created.[21][22] [23]

First life partnership in Croatia was registered in Zagreb on 5 September 2014 between two men.[24]

LGBT adoption[edit]

Full LGBT adoption in Croatia is not legal. However, Life Partnership Act recognizes an institution similar to step-child adoption called partner-guardianship. A single person regardless of sexual orientation is allowed to adopt.[25]

Laws concerning gender/identity expression[edit]

Gender transition is legal in Croatia, together with birth certificate amendment. Up until June 2013 the change of sex was always stated on the birth certificate. However, on 29 May 2012 it was announced that the government will take extra steps to protect transsexual and transgender people. Under the new rules Sex reassignment surgery does not have to be stated in a birth certificate anymore, thus making sure that information of that kind stays private. This also includes people who have not gone through sex reassignment surgery, but have been going through hormone replacement therapy. This law change has been proposed by the ruling coalition when they were in opposition in 2010, but it was categorically rejected by then ruling right-wing HDZ. The new law took effect on 29 June 2013.[26][27][28]

Access to in-vitro fertilisation for same-sex couples[edit]

In 2009 the governing Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party passed a very controversial law restricting access to in vitro fertilisation (IVF) solely to married couples and heterosexual couples who could prove that they had been cohabitating for at least three years. HDZ initially attempted to pass the law restricting access to IVF solely to married couples, but due to strong public pressure HDZ amended the proposed law to allow access to IVF for non-married heterosexual couples as well. The Catholic Church actively supported first proposal of this law, advocating that access to IVF should only be granted to married couples.[29] HDZ have declared themselves as a Christian democratic party and then Minister of Health and Social Welfare Darko Milinović indicated that the government took the Church's position on the issue seriously.[30][31][32][33][34]

In December 2011 the newly elected Kukuriku coalition government announced that modernisation of IVF law would be one of its first priorities. Proposed changes to the law would allow single women access to IVF as well as other changes concerning freezing embryos and the fertilization of eggs. The Catholic Church immediately opposed to these changes, stating that they were not involved in discussion as much as they should have been. The Church began a petition against the law, but Minister of Health Rajko Ostojić said that the law is going into procedure, and that there will be no compromise.[35] When asked about his attitude on lesbian couples having access to IVF Ostojić said: "Gay is OK!"[36]

On 13 July 2012 new law came into force with 88 MPs voting for, 45 voting against, and 2 abstaining. HNS MPs who are also members of the ruling coalition wanted for lesbian couples to be included in this law as well, and have expressed disappointment for their amendment not being accepted, but it has been explained that this law deals with infertility only.[37][38]

Discrimination issues[edit]

The 2008 Anti-Discrimination Law includes sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression as prohibited bases for discrimination in access to public and private services and to establishments serving the public.[39]

Other anti-discrimination directives are included in many acts since 2003:

  • Penal Code (includes hate crime legislation and "racial and other discrimination")
  • Gender Equality Law
  • Criminal Procedure Law
  • Law on Science and Higher Studies
  • Media Law
  • Electronic Media Law (anti-discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression)
  • Life Partnership Act
  • Labour Code
  • Sport Law
  • Asylum Law
  • The Law on volunteering (anti-discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression)

In 2009, the European Committee on Social Rights found several statements in a Croatian mandatory Biology course textbook, including that “Many individuals are prone to sexual relations with persons of the same sex (..). It is believed that parents are to blame because they impede their children’s correct sexual development with their irregularities in family relations. Nowadays it has become evident that homosexual relations are the main culprit for increased spreading of sexually transmitted diseases (e.g. AIDS)”, or “The disease [AIDS] has spread amongst promiscuous groups of people who often change their sexual partners. Such people are homosexuals because of sexual contacts with numerous partners, drug addicts (..) and prostitutes” to be discriminatory and in violation of Croatia's obligations under the European Social Charter.[40]

In November 2010 the European Commission's annual progress report on Croatia's candidacy stated that that Croatia's numerous homophobic incidents are worrying since inquisitions need to make further efforts in combating hate crimes.[41] The European Parliament, as stands in its 2010 resolution, expressed "its concern at the resentment against the LGBT minority in Croatia, evidenced most recently by homophobic attacks on participants in the LGBT Pride parade in Zagreb; urges the Croatian authorities to condemn and prosecute political hatred and violence against any minority; invites the Croatian Government to implement and enforce the Anti-Discrimination Law”.[42]

In July 2012 the Municipal Court in Varaždin announced the verdict in a case of sexual orientation discrimination and harassment against a professor at the Faculty of Organization and Informatics, University of Zagreb. The court found that there had been discrimination and harassment against the victim in the workplace on the grounds of his sexual orientation and prohibited the Faculty from hindering the victim’s further professional advancement. This case was the first report of discrimination based on sexual orientation in accordance with the Anti-Discrimination Act.[43]

On 1 March 2013, Minister of Science, Education and Sports Željko Jovanović announced that his ministry will start an action of removing all homophobic content from the books used in elementary schools, and high schools in Croatia. He is especially targeting Religious education books. Religious education in Croatian schools is optional.[44]

In March 2014 it was published that Croatia granted its first asylum to the person persecuted on the basis of sexual orientation. It was a young man from Uganda who fled the country as a result of the Uganda Anti-homosexuality Act.[45]

Hate crimes legislation[edit]

2007 Zagreb Pride
LGBT flags in Zagreb during the Zagreb Pride Week.

Since 2006 the country has had hate crimes legislation covering sexual orientation. This law was first applied in 2007, when a man who violently attacked the Zagreb Pride parade was charged and convicted to 14 months in prison.[46] Police arrested a 25-year-old Josip Šitum and charged him with a hate crime for the incident of the attempted to throw five or six Molotov cocktails on Zagreb Pride in June 2007. This was the first time that someone was indicted for a hate crime since this type of crime was introduced into the Criminal Code in June 2006. Josip Šitum was sentenced by a first instance court to 14 months in prison and 14 months in mandatory psychiatric therapy in February 2008. In his defense he claimed he is "a Catholic and a believer" and that he is "troubled by events such as Gay Prides and wanted to raise awareness about this problem." The court decided to keep Šitum in custody, where he has been for about eight months, until his ruling is finalized. State Attorney's Office stated, after the conviction, that they are displeased with the length of the prison sentence and have asked for it to be increased.[47] On 1 January 2013 new Penal Code has been introduced with the recognition of a hate crime based on a gender identity.[18]

Cooperation with the police[edit]

LGBT associations Zagreb Pride, Iskorak and Kontra have been cooperating with the police since 2006 when Croatia first recognized hate crimes based on sexual orientation, and as a result of that cooperation the police have included education about hate crimes against LGBT persons in their curriculum in 2013. In April of the same year Minister of Interior Ranko Ostojić, together with his ministry, and Iskorak and Kontra have launched a national campaign encouraging LGBT persons to report hate crimes. The campaign included city light billboards in four cities (Zagreb, Split, Pula, and Osijek), handing out leaflets to citizens in those four cities, and distribution of leaflets to police stations throughout the country.[48]

Blood donation issues[edit]

According to the regulations of the Croatian institute for transfusions (Hrvatski zavod za transfuzijsku medicinu) people who practised sexual acts with the persons of the same sex are banned from donating blood.[49]

Sexual orientation and military service[edit]

LGBT persons are not banned from the military service. Some reports suggest that most gays serving in the military decide to keep their sexual orientation private, but there have also been reports and personal experiences suggesting that Croatian Armed Forces take discrimination very seriously and do not tolerate homophobia among its members.[1]

Living conditions[edit]

The capital city Zagreb is home to the biggest gay scene, including gay clubs and bars, plus many other places advertised as gay-friendly in an official guide for LGBT community. Zagreb is also home to the first LGBT centre in Croatia, and a Queer Zagreb organization, that among many other activities promoting equality includes Queer Zagreb festival, and Queer MoMenti (an ongoing monthly film program dedicated to queer cinema).[50] Croatia's second LGBT centre was officially opened in Split on 24 May 2014, and the third one in Rijeka on 16 October 2014 called LGBTIQ+ Druga Rijeka.[51][52] Other places that host gay/queer parties, and are home to gay-friendly places such as bars, clubs, and beaches are Rijeka, Osijek, Hvar, Rab, Rovinj, Dubrovnik etc.[53][54][55][56][57]

Vesna Pusić, Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs supporter of LGBT rights

LGBT prides and other marches[edit]

March for the marriage equality 2013

Zagreb Pride[edit]

Main article: Zagreb Pride

The first pride in Croatia took place on 29 June 2002 in the capital city of Zagreb. It has become an annual event since then. Public support is growing and number of participants is also increasing rapidly year after year, but they have experienced violent public opposition. LGBT issues activists criticized the government for the lack of punishment of the offenders and called this a violation of human rights. Pride held in 2006 had a regional character and it was organized in support to those participants coming from countries where the socio-political climate is not ripe for the organization of Pride events and where such a manifestation is expressly forbidden by the authorities. 2011 is considered to be a turning point in a Pride's history as it was held a week after the first unsuccessful Split Pride, and it was emphatically supported by the media and politicians. Around 4,000 people marched while many of the bystanders loudly supported the LGBT community. It was the biggest Pride rally in Croatia at the time, and took place without violence. It was also reported that number of policemen securing pride was lower than previous years. Pride held in 2013 was the biggest one so far, with 15,000 participants.[58][59][60][61][62][63]

Split Pride[edit]

Main article: Split Pride

First LGBT pride in Split took place on 11 June 2011. The pride was not successful as the security was not strong enough to prevent incidents, and as a result of that the activists had to be led to safety, and several hundred anti-gay protesters were arrested, so the pride had to be cancelled.[64] Soon after Split Pride, media led the campaign to support LGBT community, calling everyone to "march in upcoming Zagreb Pride".[65] Four days before Zagreb Pride march organizers met with President Ivo Josipović.[66] Pride in 2012 was successful, and enjoyed major support from the Croatian media, celebrities, and politicians. Five ministers from the government participated: Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Vesna Pusić, Minister of Administration Arsen Bauk, Minister of Economoy Ivan Vrdoljak, Minister of the Interior Ranko Ostojić, and Minister of War Veterans Predrag Matić. Other notable participants include Mladen Badovinac who is a member of famous Croatian band TBF, Predrag Matvejević, Rajko Grlić, Nenad Puhovski, Damir Urban, Zlatko Gall, Jurica Pavičić, Viktor Ivančić, Ante Tomić, Boris Dežulović etc. Many bystanders showed support for the pride, while opponents were unable to approach the participants. Pride in 2013 went without a single incident, and it was significant as it was the first time in Croatia that a mayor of the city where the pride took place participated.[67][68][69][70][71][72][73]

Osijek Pride[edit]

Main article: Osijek Pride

First LGBT pride in Osijek took place on 6 September 2014. Pride was organized by Osijek LGBT association LiberOs. Pride went without a single incident, and was attended by more than 300 people. Motto for the first Osijek Pride was: "Osijek-unbowed city;LGBTIQ-unbowed citizens! (Osijek-nepokoreni grad;LGBTIQ-nepokoreni građani)". Minister of Economoy Ivan Vrdoljak participated, as well as Serbian and Greek LGBT activists Aleksandar Sekulić and Apostol Karabairis. Organizing committee sent a message to the people of Osijek and Croatia: "We are your daughters and your sons, neighbours and friends, we grew up with you and we want to live with you without fear and shame because of our differences."[74]

Other marches[edit]

On 9 June 2012 several hundred participants marched in Rijeka, the third largest city in Croatia. The march was organised to support Split Pride.[75] On 27 May 2013 around 1,500 participants in Zagreb marched in support of same-sex marriage. The march started in the park of Zrinjevac, from where participant marched towards the St. Mark's Square, the location of Croatian Government, Croatian parliament, and Constitutional Court of Croatia.[76]

On 30 November 2013, one day before the referendum on marriage being defined in the Constitution as a union between a woman and a man, around a thousand people marched in the city of Zagreb in support of same-sex marriage. Marches of support also took place in Pula, Split, and Rijeka gathering hundreds of people.[77]


Proponents of LGBT rights[edit]

Former Croatian President Ivo Josipović provides strong support for full LGBT rights, along with many other celebrities and centre-left political parties such as SDP, HNS, HSLS, ORaH, and Labour Party. He has been one of the most prominent supporters for LGBT rights even before he became president. After he has been elected as a president he has met with LGBT associations several times expressing support. On 1 June 2012, he has published a video message giving support for 2012 Split Pride and further expansion of LGBT rights. He has also condemned violence at 2011 Split Pride, saying that it was unacceptable and that the next Split Pride should not experience same scenario.[78] In October 2013 at the reception at the Presidential Palace he welcomed newly appointed Finnish ambassador and his life partner to Croatia.[79]

Vesna Pusić, a member of HNS, is very popular among Croatian LGBTs, and was named a "gay friendly person of the decade" according to the votes from the LGBT community. She has been very much involved in improving LGBT rights while being a member of ruling governments. A former member of SDP, current president of ORaH and a former Minister for Environment and Nature Protection in Kukuriku coalition Mirela Holy has been a notable supporter of LGBT rights for years, and has participated in every LGBT pride so far.[80] Some other famous supporters for LGBT rights in Croatia are Rade Šerbedžija, Igor Zidić, Slavenka Drakulić, Vinko Brešan, Severina Vučković, Nataša Janjić, Josipa Lisac, Nevena Rendeli, Šime Lučin, Ivo Banac, Furio Radin, Darinko Kosor, Iva Prpić, Đurđa Adlešič, Drago Pilsel, Lidija Bajuk, Mario Kovač, Nina Violić, ex-prime minister Ivica Račan's widow Dijana Pleština, Maja Vučić, Gordana Lukač-Koritnik, pop group E.N.I etc. Hundreds of people from public life have so far expressed support for LGBT rights. Damir Hršak, a member of the Labour party, who has publicly spoken about his sexual orientation and has been involved in LGBT activism for years, is the first openly gay politician to become an official candidate for the first European Parliament elections in Croatia, held in April 2013. He had criticized current coalition government for not doing enough for LGBT community, and said that his party would not make concessions, and is in favour of same-sex marriage.[81][82][83][84][85][86]

Opponents of LGBT rights[edit]

The largest right-wing party in Croatia HDZ is opposed to LGBT rights. HDZ MPs voted against the law on unregistered cohabitations, and against Life Partnership Act.[87] They have however enacted several laws that ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity as part of the negotiation process prior to the European Union.[88] Since Croatia became an independent country HDZ on its own or with coalition partners managed to from majority in Sabor in 4 out of 6 Parliamentary elections (1992, 1995, 2003, 2007).

Formed in 2006 HDSSB, a regionalist and right wing populist party is opposed to LGBT rights. During the Parliamentary debate on Life Partnership act Dinko Burić, HDSSB MP opposed the law, and said:"For us gay is not ok!" He also added that this is his party's official stand on LGBT rights. HDSSB MPs supported the 2013 referendum by having the word FOR on top of their laptops in the Parliament.[89][90]

Ruža Tomašić, the former leader of HSP dr.Ante Starčević expressed her opposition to same-sex marriages, but at the same time expressed her support for same-sex couples to be equal to married couples in everything except adoption, and the right to marry as Croatia is a majority Catholic country.[91] Her deputy Pero Kovačević said that 19th century Croatian politician Ante Starčević after whom the party has been named would not oppose LGBT rights, and would support same-sex marriage. This was said after he learned about the youth of the party organizing an anti-gay protest. They later published an official letter expressing an outrage by his opposition to the anti-gay protest.[92]

The Roman Catholic Church in Croatia is also strongly opposed to LGBT rights. After the first LGBT Pride in Split in 2011 some Catholic clergy even attempted to explain and justify the violence that had occurred during the Pride march. Dr. Adalbert Rebić argued: "they got what they were asking for".. Meanwhile Ante Mateljan, professor of the Catholic Theology College, openly called for the lynching of LGBT marchers quo vede: hic

The Catholic Church has also engaged at the political level, and publicly supported the 2013 referendum on marriage - being actively involved in collecting the signatures for the petition. Cardinal Josip Bozanić encouraged support for the amendment in a letter that was read in churches where he singled out heterosexual marriage as being a the only kind of union that is capable of biologically producing children.[93][94][95][96]

A conservative group In the name of the family formed in 2013 was the initiator of a 2013 referendum. It opposes same-sex marriage, and any other form of same-sex partnerships. Most prominent member of the group Željka Markić opposed the Life Partnership act calling it same-sex marriage under a different name, and a violation of the Constitution. She found the partner-guardianship institution the most problematic in the law. Minister of Administration Arsen Bauk said that the government would not be changing the law, and reminded that the Constitutional court said the definition of a marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the Constitution must not have any negative effects on future laws on same-sex relationships.[97][98][99]

Proponents of certain LGBT rights[edit]

Alongside conservative Ruža Tomašić who said same-sex couples should have certain rights, a former Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy at NATO and a current Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović is against same-sex marriage, but does support Life Partnership Act saying it is a good compromise. She also included sexual minorities in her inaugural speech, and said she would support her son if he was gay. She was a member of HDZ, but had to resign her party membership due to taking office of Croatia's president.[100][101]

Public opinion[edit]

A poll in June 2011, showed 38.3% citizens supported "gay prides", while 53.5% were opposed. Furthermore, 51.3% of citizens believed that "gay prides" should not be banned, while 41,2% thought they should.[102] A survey conducted in 2014 showed that 45.4% of respondents 'strongly oppose' legalization of gay marriage in Croatia, while additional 15.5% 'tend to oppose'. 10.1% were strongly in favour, 6.9% mostly in favour, and 21.2% were neutral. Survey included 1000 people.[103] After the Life Partnership Act was passed the opposition and groups opposed to LGBT rights claimed many registrars will wish to be exempted from performing life partnerships at registrars offices (even though that is not possible), and that private businesses such as florists, bakers, wedding planners etc. will be forced to provide services to gay and lesbian couples. Deputy head of Zagreb City Office for General Administration Dragica Kovačić claimed no cases of registrars wishing to be exempted is known. There are 30 registrars in the City of Zagreb in charge of marriages and life partnerships, and at the registrars' meeting nobody raised an issue. She also stated that there is no reason for the LGBT rights not to be recognized. Additionally, Croatian lesbian news portal CroL conducted a survey, and randomly phoned private business asking whether they would refuse to provide services to gay and lesbian couples or not. Every business surveyed stated they would offer their services to those couples.[104][105]

During the presidential campaign in December 2014 daily newspaper Večernji list conducted a survey asking the public what the future president should be like, what he or she should or should not support etc. 50.4% of people thought that future president should support current level of LGBT rights in Croatia, while 49.6% thought he/she shouldn't.[106]

2013 Referendum[edit]

In May 2013, a conservative civil initiative group "In the name of the family" collected more than 700 000 signatures for a referendum, which would constitutionally define marriage as "a union between a woman and a man".[107] They needed a minimum of 450,000 signatures, representing 10% of registered voters. The Government disapproved of the referendum, accusing the Church as the main force behind the initiative. The Catholic Church had a major role in collecting signatures as many volunteers were based in front of the churches. The Government also said that this referendum question was in fact unconstitutional. The initiative divided Croatian society, and opened many previously unconsidered questions, such as reform of the law on referendum. According to the current law, turnout is not a condition for a successful referendum, thus enabling a minority of those eligible to vote to change the Constitution. The outcome of this referendum would not prevent the Government from expanding the rights of same-sex unions, even equating them with marriage, thus raising questions on the purpose of the referendum. According to an opinion poll of 1300 people, 55.3% of them supported the initiative, and 31.1% opposed. However, almost 40% decided not to participate in the referendum.[107][108][109]

The Parliament voted in favour of not presenting the referendum question before the Constitutional Court. However, after the Parliament had set the date for the referendum, every Croatian citizen had the right to do so. Three organisations (Zagreb Pride, Centre For Civil Courage, and CroL) did bring the case before the Court. The Constitutional Court decided against them, stating that there was no legal basis for banning the referendum. The Court also stated that, should the citizens support inclusion of the definition of marriage as a union between a woman and a man in the Constitution, that would have no negative effect on future laws regarding same-sex couples, or non-married opposite-sex couples.[110][111][112][112] Conservative Ex-Prime Minister, once a member of right-wing HDZ, and now an independent MP Jadranka Kosor voted in favour of presenting the question before the Constitutional Court, and voted against the proposed Constitutional change on a referendum. This statement was not in line with her previous views on homosexuality and same-sex marriages. She is known for being against the expansion of rights for same-sex couples in the past, and was voted the "homophobe of the year" in 2010 after stating that homosexuality is not natural, and that same-sex marriages should never be legal. She also supported the Life Partnership Act.[113][114][115][116][117][118][119][120]

There was much resistance to the referendum in Croatia, with some of the media, like daily newspaper Jutarnji list, donating its advertising space to all the organisations and citizens who felt threatened by the possible referendum. Aside from well-known public figures who were openly against the referendum, the Jewish Community in Zagreb, and a Lutheran church were the two religious organisations who also publicly opposed it.[121][122][123] Some of the most popular Croatian entertainers including Severina, TBF, Let 3 organised a concert gathering hundreds of people in support of equal rights and against constitutional amendment on the main Zagreb square. The concert was organized as the main event of 15 days long "VoteNO campaign" which united 88 organizations led by GONG and Zagreb Pride.[124] Croatian psychologists and psychology students organised a petition against proposed referendum.[125][126][127]

The referendum took place on 1 December 2013. Turnout was 37,9%. 65,87% voted in favour of a constitutional change, and 33,51% voted against. Not all counties voted in favour of limiting marriage to heterosexual couples only. Istria and Primorje-Gorski Kotar voted against with 58,23% and 53,30% respectively. When it comes to larger cities Rijeka voted against with 59,27%, and Pula voted against with 63,64%. Most cities in these two counties voted against, with Labin being the leader with 70,97%. When it comes to cities outside these two counties Varaždin and Čakovec also voted against with 56,94% and 58,95% respectively. Zagreb voted 55,9% in favour, and 43,50% against.[128]

LGBT tourism[edit]

Croatia is a major tourist centre and there are places advertised as gay-friendly along the Croatian Adriatic coast. Two of the most noted are the islands of Hvar and Rab. Rab is known to be a truly naturist paradise with reports about local people being very gay-friendly. Hvar was listed in the top places to visit for gay tourists.

In June 2012 Croatian Minister of Tourism Veljko Ostojić welcomed all gay tourists to Croatia, and supported Split Pride.[129][130][131][132][133]

Summary table[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (Since 1977)
Equal age of consent Yes (Since 1998)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only Yes (Since 2003)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services Yes (Since 2003)
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) Yes
Same-sex marriage No (Constitutionally banned since 2013)
Recognition of same-sex couples (e.g. unregistered cohabitation) Yes (Since 2003)
Life partnership for same-sex couples Yes (Since 2014)
Step-child adoption Yes/No (Partner-guardianship since 2014)
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military Yes
Right to change legal gender Yes
Access to IVF for lesbian couples No
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No No (Illegal for all couples regardless of sexual orientation)
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]


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