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
relationships
Unregistered cohabitation since 2003,
Life partnership since 2014
Restrictions:
Constitution bans same-sex marriage since the 2013 referendum.
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 has been legal in Croatia since 1977.

The status of same-sex relationships were first formally recognized in 2003 under a law dealing with unregistered cohabitations. As a result of a 2013 referendum, Croatia's Constitution defines marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman, effectively reinforcing the prohibition on same-sex marriage.[2] Nevertheless, since the introduction of the Life Partnership Act in 2014, same-sex couples in Croatia have effectively enjoyed rights equal to heterosexual married couples in everything except adoption rights. However, separate legislation does provide same-sex couples with an mechanism similar to step-child adoption called "partner-guardianship". Croatia bans all discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

Centre-left, centre, and green political parties have generally been the main proponents of LGBT rights, while right-wing, centre-right political parties and movements close to the Roman Catholic Church have been in opposition to the extension of rights.

In 2015, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) ranked Croatia 5th in terms of LGBT rights out of 49 observed European countries, which represented an improvement compared to the previous year's position of 12th place.[3][4] Croatia is among 11 member countries that make up a LGBT Core Group at U.N. on Ending Violence and Discrimination.[5]

History[edit]

Pre-20th century[edit]

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. However, the draft was never formally adopted.[7]

Second World War[edit]

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

Communist era[edit]

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]

Post-communist era[edit]

The 1990s brought a slowdown in terms of the progression of LGBT rights mainly as a result of the breakup of Yugoslavia followed by the Croatian War of Independence when many Croatian LGBT people, then involved in various feminist, peace and green organizations, joined the Anti-war campaign within Croatia. Following Croatian independence, in 1992 the first LGBT association under the name of LIGMA was officially formed. However, this only lasted until 1997 as the socio-political climate of the time proved hostile to the advancement of gay rights. The most significant event that occurred in the 1990s was the equalization of the age of consent for all sexual activity in 1998 (both heterosexual and homosexual). The situation effectively stagnated until the 2000 when a new government coalition, consisting mainly of parties of the centre-left and led by Ivica Račan, took power from the HDZ after their ten-year rule.[9]

The 2000s proved a turning point for LGBT history in Croatia with the formation of several LGBT associations (with LORI in 2000 and ISKORAK in 2002 being among the first); the introduction of unregistered cohabitations; the outlawing of all anti-LGBT discrimination (including recognition of 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 shown public support for LGBT rights, with some politicians even actively participating in Gay Pride events on a regular basis.[9]

The 2010s have so far been marked with a second annual gay pride event in Croatia in the city of Split, a third in Osijek, and the return in 2011 of the centre-left coalition sympathetic to gay rights after the eight-year rule by the conservative-led coalition.[9][11] The Croatian Government also introduced a Life Partnership Act which makes same-sex couples effectively equal to married couples in everything except full adoption rights.[12]

More recently, the establishment of a lobby group, "In the Name of the Family", led the call to change the Croatian national 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, countered 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 at all, saying, "I think it did not make us any better, smarter or prettier."[12]

Public laws[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] The age of consent was then equalised in 1998 when it was set at 14 by the Croatian Penal Code for everyone; and later raised 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
  Marriage
  Foreign marriages recognized
  Other type of partnership
  Unregistered cohabitation
  Unrecognized
  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 (consisting of parties mainly from the centre-left) passed a law giving some legal recognition to 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. However, the right to adopt was not included, nor any other rights included under family law - instead separate legislation has been created to deal with this point. In addition it was not permitted to formally register these same-sex relationships, nor to claim additional rights in terms of tax, joint property, health insurance, pensions etc.[19]

In early 2005 Sabor rejected a registered partnerships proposal put forward by Šime Lučin (SDP) and the independent Ivo Banac.[20] Lucija Čikeš MP, a member of the then ruling HDZ, called for the proposal to be dropped because "the whole universe is heterosexual, from the atom and the smallest particle; from a fly to an elephant". Another HDZ MP objected on the grounds that, "85% of the population considers itself Catholic and the Church is against heterosexual and homosexual equality". However, the medical and physical professions, and the media more generally rejected these statements in opposition, warning that all the members of Sabor had a duty to vote according to the Constitution which bans discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.


On 11 May 2012, the Croatian prime minister, Zoran Milanović, announced a further expansion to the rights of same-sex couples through a new law which would replace the existing unregistered cohabitation legislation. Sabor subsequently passed the "Life Partnership Act" on 15 July 2014. This law effectively made same-sex couples equal to heterosexual married couples in everything except adoption rights. An institution similar to step-child adoption called "partner-guardian" was created to deal with the care of children.[21][22] [23]

The first life partnership in Croatia took place in Zagreb on September 5, 2014 between two men.[24] Within a year of the Sabor passing the law 80 life partnerships were conducted.[25]

LGBT adoption[edit]

Full LGBT adoption in Croatia is not legal. However, a life partner may become a partner-guardian over their life partner's child. A single person regardless of sexual orientation is allowed to adopt.[26]

Partner-guardianship and parental responsibilities[edit]

A life partner who is not a biological parent of their partner's child or children can gain parental responsibilities on a temporary or permanent basis. As part of a "life partnership", the parent or parents of a child can temporarily entrust their life partner (who is not a biological parent) with parental rights. If those rights last beyond 30 days, then the decision must be certified by a notary. Under this situation, while the parental rights endure then the parent/parents and the life partner must agree collectively on decisions important for the child's well-being. In case of a dissolution of a life partnership, the partner who is not the biological parent can maintain a personal relationship with the child provided the court decides it is in the child's best interest.

"Partner-guardianship" is a mechanism created under the Life Partnership Act that enables a life partner who is not a biological parent to gain permanent parental rights, and is thus similar to step-child adoption. Such a relationship between the non-parent life partner and the child may be continued if the parent-partner dies (under the condition that the other parent has also died), is considered unknown, or has lost their parental responsibilities due to child abuse. However, the non-parent life partner can also ask for the establishment of partner-guardianship while the parent-partner is alive under the condition that the other parent is considered unknown or has lost parental responsibilities due to child abuse.

The partner-guardian receives full parental responsibility as is the case with step-child adoption, and is registered on the child's birth certificate as their partner-guardian. Partner-guardianship is a permanent next-of-kin relationship with all the rights, responsibilities, and legal standing as that of a parent and a child.[27][28] First case of a partner-guardianship was reported in July 2015.[29]

Laws concerning gender/identity expression[edit]

Gender transition is legal in Croatia, and birth certificate may be legally amended to recognise this. Up until June 2013 the change of gender always had to be stated on an individual's birth certificate. However, on 29 May 2012 it was announced that the government would take extra steps to protect transsexual and transgender people. Under the new rules, the undertaking of sex reassignment surgery no longer has to be stated on an individual's birth certificate, thus ensuring that such information remains private. This is also the case for people who have not formally undergone sex reassignment surgery, but have nevertheless undertaken hormone replacement therapy. The change in the law was proposed by the ruling coalition while they were in opposition in 2010, but was categorically rejected by the ruling right-wing HDZ at the time. The new law took effect on 29 June 2013.[30][31][32]

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

In 2009, the governing Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party passed a 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 the first legislative proposal, arguing that access to IVF should only be granted to married couples.[33] As HDZ is a self-declared Christian democratic party, the then Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Darko Milinović, indicated that the government took the Church's position on the matter seriously.[34][35][36][37][38]

In December 2011, the newly elected Kukuriku coalition government announced that the modernisation of the IVF law would be one of its first priorities. Proposed changes to the law would allow single women access to IVF as well. Other changes were also proposed concerning the freezing of embryos and the fertilization of eggs. The Catholic Church immediately indicated its public oppositions to these changes, stating that they had not been involved in the discussions as much as they should like to have been. The Church subsequently initiated a petition against the legislation, but the Minister of Health, Rajko Ostojić, announced that the law would be going ahead with no compromises.[39] When asked about his attitude on lesbian couples having access to IVF Ostojić said: "Gay is OK!"[40]

On 13 July 2012, the new law came into force with 88 MPs voting in favour, 45 voting against, and 2 abstentions. A number of HNS MPs who are also members of the ruling coalition wanted lesbian couples to be included in the legal change as well, and expressed disappointment that their amendment was not ultimately accepted. However, the government justified the exclusion by arguing that the legislative change was only intended to deal with the issue of infertility.[41][42]

Anti-Discrimination Laws[edit]

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

The 2008 Anti-Discrimination Law includes sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression on the list of protected categories against discrimination when it comes to access to either public and private services, or to access to establishments serving the public.[43]

Other anti-discrimination directives have been included in various pieces of legislation 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 discriminatory statements in a biology course text-book mandatory in Croatian schools. It ruled that the statements violated Croatia's obligations under the European Social Charter.[44]

In November 2010, the European Commission's annual progress report on Croatia's candidacy to the EU stated the number of homophobic incidents in Croatia provided concern, and that further effort had to be made in combating hate crime.[45] A 2010 resolution by the European Parliament expressed "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”.[46]

In July 2012, the Municipal Court in Varaždin dealt with a case of discrimination and harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation against a professor at the Faculty of Organization and Informatics at the University of Zagreb. The case was the first report of discrimination based on sexual orientation in accordance with the Anti-Discrimination Act. The court found that there had indeed been discrimination and harassment against the victim in the workplace, and the Faculty was probited from further hindering the victim’s professional advancement.[47]

On 1 March 2013, the Minister for Science, Education and Sports, Željko Jovanović, announced that his ministry would begin an action to remove all homophobic content from books used in both elementary and high schools. He wanted to especially target Religious education books (religious education in Croatian schools is an optional course).[48]

In March 2014, it was announced that Croatia had granted asylum for the first time to a person persecuted on the basis of their sexual orientation - a young man from Uganda who had fled the country as a result of the Uganda Anti-homosexuality Act.[49]

Hate crime legislation[edit]

Since 2006 the country has had hate crimes legislation in place which covers sexual orientation. The law was first applied in 2007, when a man who violently attacked the Zagreb Pride parade using Molotov cocktails was charged and convicted to 14 months in prison.[50][51] 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. As a result of that cooperation the police have included education about hate crimes against LGBT persons in their training curriculum in 2013. In April of the same year the Minister of the Interior, Ranko Ostojić, together with officials from his ministry launched a national campaign alongside Iskorak and Kontra to encourage LGBT persons to report hate crimes. The campaign has included city light billboards in four cities (Zagreb, Split, Pula, and Osijek), handing out leaflets to citizens in those four cities, and distributing leaflets within police stations across the country.[52]

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.[53]

Sexual orientation and military service[edit]

LGBT persons are not banned from participation in military service. Ministry of Defence has no internal rules regard LGBT persons, but it follows regulation at the state level which explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Some media reports have suggested that most gay men serving in the military generally decide to keep their sexual orientation private, but there have also been reports suggesting that the Croatian Armed Forces take discrimination very seriously and will not tolerate homophobia among its personnel.[54][55]

Public opinion[edit]

The 2010 European Social Survey found that 38% of Croatians agreed with the statement that "gay men and lesbians should be free to live their own lives as they wish".[56]

A poll in June 2011 showed that 38.3% of citizens supported the holding of Gay pride events, while 53.5% remained opposed. However, a majority (51.3%) did not believe it was right to ban such events - while 41,2% thought they should be.[57]

A June 2013 opinion poll suggested that 55.3% stated would vote yes in an upcoming referendum to constitutionally prohibit same-sex marriage; with 31.1% voting no. However, in the event, almost 40% of the national population decided not to participate in the referendum.[58]

A poll from November 2013 revealed that 59% of Croats think that marriage should be constitutionally defined as a union between a man and a woman, while 31% do not agree with the idea.[59]

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, and that private businesses such as florists, bakers or wedding planners will be forced to provide services to gay and lesbian couples. The 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. Additionally, a survey was conducted in which private businesses were randomly phoned, asking whether they would refuse to provide services to gay and lesbian couples. Every business surveyed stated they would offer their services to those couples.[60][61]

A small survey of 1000 people conducted in 2014 showed that 45.4% of respondents are strongly against and 15.5% are mainly against the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Croatia. 10.1% were strongly in favour, 6.9% mostly in favour, and 21.2% were neutral.[62]

A survey conducted during the presidential campaign in December 2014 by the daily newspaper Večernji list found that 50.4% of people thought that the future president should support the current level of LGBT rights in Croatia, while 49.6% thought he/she shouldn't.[63]

Eurobarometer Discrimination in the EU in 2015 report concluded the following: 48% of people in Croatia believe that gay, lesbian, and bisexual people should have the same rights as heterosexual people, and 37% of them believe same-sex marriages should be allowed throughout Europe.

When asked about having a gay, lesbian or bisexual person in the highest elected political position results were as follows: 40% of the respondents were comfortable with the idea, 13% moderately comfortable, 6% indifferent, 38% uncomfortable, and 3% didn't know. When asked the same question about transgender or transsexual person results were as follows: 33% were comfortable with the idea, 15% moderately comfortable, 40% uncomfortable, 6% indifferent, and 5% didn't know.

Furthermore, when asked how they would feel if one of their colleagues at work were gay, lesbian or bisexual results were as follows: 48% respondents felt comfortable about the idea, 11% moderately comfortable, 31% uncomfortable, 5% indifferent, 4% said it depends, and 1% didn't know. When ti comes to working with transgender or transsexual person results were as follows: 44% felt comfortable with the idea, 12% moderately comfortable, 31% uncomfortable, 6% were indifferent, 3% it would depend, and 4% didn't know.

That transgender or transsexual person should be able to change their civil documents to match their inner gender identity was agreeable to 44%, disagreeable to 39%, and 17% didn't know.

64% of respondents agreed that school lessons and material should include information about diversity in terms of sexual orientation, and 63% agreed the same about gender identity.[64]

In May 2016 ILGA published a survey about attitudes towards LGBT people conducted in 53 UN members (12 of those were European countries, including Croatia). When asked whether homosexuality should be a crime, 68% of people in Croatia strongly disagreed with that (second highest percentage after the Netherlands where 70% of people strongly disagreed), 4% somewhat disagreed, 19% were neutral, 4% somewhat agreed, and 5% strongly agreed (the lowest percentage of people who strongly agreed among European countries included in the survey). Furthermore, when asked whether they would be concerned about having a LGBT neighbor, 75% of people said they would have no concerns, 15% would be somewhat uncomfortable, and 10% very uncomfortable.[65]

Living conditions[edit]

The capital city Zagreb is home to the biggest gay scene, including gay clubs and bars, plus many other places frequently advertised as gay-friendly. Zagreb is also home to the first LGBT centre in Croatia, and the "Queer Zagreb" organization, that among many other activities promotes equality through the Queer Zagreb festival, and Queer MoMenti (an ongoing monthly film program dedicated to LGBT cinema).[66] 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.[67][68] Other places that host LGBT parties, and are home to gay-friendly places such as bars, clubs, and beaches are Rijeka, Osijek, Hvar, Rab, Rovinj, Dubrovnik etc.[69][70][71][72][73]

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. Public support is growing and number of participants is also increasing rapidly year after year, but the marches have also experienced violent public opposition[74] In 2006, the march had a regional character, aimed at supporting those coming from countries where such manifestations are expressly forbidden by the authorities. The 2011 manifestation was the biggest Pride rally in Croatia at the time, and took place without any violent incidents. It was also reported that the number of policemen providing security at the event was lower than had been the case in previous years. The 2013 event was the biggest one so far, with 15,000 participants.[75][76][77][78]

Split Pride[edit]

Main article: Split Pride

The first LGBT pride in Split took place on 11 June 2011. However, the march proved problematic as official security was not strong enough to prevent serious incidents, as a result of which LGBT attendees had to be led to safety. Several hundred anti-gay protesters were arrested, and the event was eventually cancelled.[79] Soon after the event, sections of the national media voiced supported for LGBT attendees, calling on everyone to "march in the upcoming Zagreb Pride".[80] A second attempt at holding an event in 2012 was more successful, after receiving public support from the Croatian media, national celebrities, and politicians. Five ministers from the government and other public figures participated. In 2013, the march went ahead without a single incident, and it was the first time in Croatia that the mayor of the city participated.[81][82][83][84][85][86][87]

Osijek Pride[edit]

Main article: Osijek Pride

The first LGBT pride march in Osijek took place on 6 September 2014. It was organized by the Osijek LGBT association LiberOs. There were no incidents, and over 300 people attended. The Minister of the Economy, as well as Serbian and Greek LGBT activists attended.[88]

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.[89]

On 27 May 2013, around 1,500 participants in Zagreb marched in support of marriage equality from the park of Zrinjevac to St. Mark's Square, the seat of the Croatian Government, Croatian parliament, and the Constitutional Court of Croatia.[90]

On 30 November 2013, one day before the referendum took place, around a thousand people marched in the City of Zagreb in support of marriage equality. Marches of support also took place in Pula, Split, and Rijeka gathering together hundreds of people.[91]

Politics[edit]

Proponents of LGBT rights[edit]

A rainbow coloured pedestrian crossing in Poreč on the occasion of IDAHOT 2014.

The former Croatian President, Ivo Josipović, has given strong support to full LGBT rights, along with several other popular celebrities and centre-left political parties such as the Social Democratic Party of Croatia (SDP), the Croatian People's Party-Liberal Democrats (HNS), the Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS), ORaH, and the Labour Party. After Josipović was elected, he met with LGBT associations several times. On 1 June 2012, he published a video message giving support to the 2012 Split Pride and the further expansion of LGBT rights. He also condemned the violence at the 2011 Split Pride, calling it unacceptable and arguing that the next Split Pride should not experience the same scenario.[92] In October 2013 at a reception at the Presidential Palace he welcomed the newly appointed Finnish ambassador and his life partner to Croatia.[93][94]

Vesna Pusić, a member of HNS, is very popular within the Croatian LGBT community. She has been active in improving LGBT rights while being a member of successive governments. A former member of the SDP, current president of ORaH and a former Minister for Environment and Nature Protection in the Kukuriku coalition Mirela Holy has also been a notable long-time supporter of LGBT rights, and has participated in every LGBT Pride event so far.[95]

Other supporters of 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, former Prime Minister Ivica Račan's widow Dijana Pleština, Maja Vučić, Gordana Lukač-Koritnik, pop group E.N.I etc.[96]

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 the current coalition government for not doing enough for the LGBT community, and said that his party would not make concessions, and is in favour of same-sex marriage.[97][98][99]

Conservatives such as Ruža Tomašić have also indicated that same-sex couples should have some legal rights. The Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović while against same-sex marriage, did indicate her support for the Life Partnership Act praising 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.[100][101] During the referendum, the conservative former Prime Minister, Jadranka Kosor, voted in favour of presenting the issue before the Constitutional Court, and against the proposed Constitutional change. This was a change from her previous position on homosexuality and same-sex marriage where she had been known for being against the expansion of LGBT rights, and subsequently voted "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.[102][103][104]

On 16 June 2011, 73 professors and associates of Zagreb Faculty of Law signed a statement initiated by the professor Mihajlo Dika, in which they expressed their full support for 2011 Zagreb Pride, and their support for the authorities in preventing and sanctioning behavior endangering equality and fundamental rights and freedoms of Croatian citizens effectively and responsibly. They also condemned hooligans that attacked the participants of the 2011 Split Pride.[105][106]

Opponents of LGBT rights[edit]

Referendum2013.JPG Glasam protiv lat.svg
Campaign poster calling to vote 'For'
Every child needs mum and dad!
Campaign poster calling to vote 'Against'
I vote against!
Volunteers collecting signatures for the 2013 referendum in Zagreb.
Results of the referendum by county.

The largest conservative party in Croatia, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), remains opposed to LGBT rights. HDZ MPs voted against the proposed law on unregistered cohabitations, and against the Life Partnership Act.[107] Since Croatian independence, HDZ has managed to form a majority in Sabor on its own or with coalition partners, in 5 out of 7 Parliamentary elections (1992, 1995, 2003, 2007, 2015). The party has, nevertheless, enacted several laws that ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity as part of the negotiation process prior to the accession of Croatia to the European Union.[108] The Croatian Democratic Alliance of Slavonia and Baranja (HDSSB), a regionalist and right wing populist party formed in 2006 is also opposed to LGBT rights. During the Parliamentary debate on the Life Partnership Act, Dinko Burić, HDSSB MP stated his opposition to the law: "For us, being 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 Parliament.[109][110]

Ruža Tomašić, leader of the Croatian Conservative Party has expressed her opposition to same-sex marriage on the grounds that Croatia is a majority Catholic country, but at the same time expressed her support for same-sex couples to receive equal rights to married couples in everything except adoption.[111] Her former deputy from the HSP dr.Ante Starčević, Pero Kovačević, said that the 19th century Croatian politician Ante Starčević after whom the party has been named would not have opposed LGBT rights, and would have supported same-sex marriage. This was said in response to the youth-wing of the party organizing an anti-gay protest. The group later published an official letter expressing outrage to Kovačević's opposition to the protest.[112]

The Roman Catholic Church in Croatia has also been an influential and vocal opponent to the extension of LGBT rights in the country. 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 that injured marchers had, "got what they were asking for".[113] Meanwhile, Ante Mateljan, a professor in the Catholic Theology College, openly called for the lynching of LGBT marchers.[114]

The Catholic Church has also engaged at a political level, notably in providing public and vocal support for the 2013 referendum to define marriage in Croatia (and thus effectively reinforcing the existing prohibition on marriage between two people of the same gender). It was actively involved in collecting signatures for the petition to force a constitutional change. Cardinal Josip Bozanić encouraged support for the proposed constitutional amendment in a letter read out in all churches where he singled out heterosexual marriage as being the only union capable of biologically producing children, and thus worthy to be recognised.[115][116][117][118]

A conservative group "In the Name of the Family", formed in 2013, was the initiator of the 2013 referendum. The group opposes same-sex marriage, and any other form of recognition for same-sex unions. The most prominent member of the group, Željka Markić, opposed the Life Partnership Act claiming it was same-sex marriage under a different name, and thus a violation of the Constitution. She argued that the partner-guardianship institution proved most problematic under law. The Minister of Administration, Arsen Bauk, responded that the government would not be changing the law on this point, while giving a reminder that the Constitutional court had made clear that defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman in the Constitution must not have any negative effects on any future laws on recognising same-sex relationships (if not marriage).[119][120][121]

LGBT tourism[edit]

Croatia is a major tourist centre. Around 200.000 LGBT tourists visit Croatian annually. Destinations such as Dubrovnik, Hvar, Rab, Krk, Rovinj, Rijeka and Zagreb are advertised as gay-friendly.[122]

The city of Rab has been a popular destination among gay tourists since the 1980s, and in 2011 it has officially become the first gay-friendly destination to advertise itself as such in Croatia. Director of the Rab Tourist Board Nedjeljko Mikelić stated: "Our slogan is - Happy island, and our message is happiness and holding hands, so feel free to hold hands whether you are a same-sex couple, a heterosexual couple, a mother and a daughter, a couple in love. Nothing negative will happen to you on this island, and you will be happy."[122] In July 2008 a gay couple from South America married in Hvar.[123] In June 2012, the Croatian Minister of Tourism Veljko Ostojić welcomed all gay tourists to Croatia, and supported Split Pride.[124][125][126][127]

On the Gay European Tourism Association (GETA) website there are more than 50 gay and gay-friendly hotels and destinations in Croatia.[128]

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 (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
Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples No
Access to IVF for lesbian couples Yes [129]
MSMs allowed to donate blood No

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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