Voters in Slovenia, the small European nation of about 2 million, rejected marriage equality by a large margin in a popular referendum over the weekend. While roughly 62% of Irish voters took the polls in support of their fellow LGBT citizens in May, CNN reports that two-thirds of the 36% of Slovenians who voted chose to overturn a law passed by the country’s parliament earlier this year which would have extended marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples. The necessary voter turnout for the referendum to carry weight was 20%. Slovenia is only the second country in the world to put marriage equality up to a popular vote, after Ireland’s successful vote.
In March, the government passed a bill legalizing marriage equality. Almost immediately, however, a conservative backlash began, supported by the Catholic church, forcing the government to agree to hold a referendum. In the days leading up to this weekend’s vote, Pope Francis addressed the overwhelmingly Catholic country, calling on Slovenians to vote against the law:
"I wish to encourage all Slovenians, especially those in public capacity, to preserve the family as the basic unit of society."
While Western Europe and the Americas have been making significant progress on the LGBT front in recent years, activists have faced repeated hurdles and failures in Eastern Europe.