Slovakia, Constitutions and LGBT rights – religious motivations or political bargaining?

Annabelle Huet looks at the motivations and wider implications of European constitutions which seek to ban gay marriage.

On June 4th 2014, Slovakia became the twelfth country in Europe to enshrine an indirect ban on same-sex unions in its constitution. With the required two-thirds majority, the constitution was amended to redefine marriage as the “unique bond between a man and a woman”, thereby implicitly excluding same-sex couples from the right to marry.  This is not an isolated case in Eastern Europe, and certainly not in the world.

In December last year, Croatia entrenched a similarly restrictive definition of marriage in its constitution by popular initiative. In the same way, Romania saw a series of debates in 2013 centre on redefining marriage in both the country’s legislation and Constitution. The Constitution was not amended in the end, and after pressure from LGBT groups, neither was the law, but on the other hand, a bill introducing same-sex civil partnerships was defeated in March this year.

Only five countries in the world explicitly ban same-sex unions in their constitutions: Burundi, Honduras, Seychelles, Uganda and Zimbabwe. However, a vast majority of countries define marriage as a union between a man and a woman only, essentially restricting the right to marry to heterosexuals. Within the European Union for instance, the constitutions of Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria define marriage in such a way.

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