Croatia to vote on gay marriage

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Croatia moved Friday to hold a referendum on whether to allow gay marriages, but critics say the vote is discriminatory and gay rights groups are challenging its wording as biased and unconstitutional.

Parliament voted to have a Dec. 1 ballot asking the question: "Do you agree that marriage is matrimony between a man and a woman?" If a majority vote "yes," Croatia's constitution will be amended to specifically define marriage as between a man and a woman, in a de facto ban on gay marriages.

The dispute over gay rights has divided Croatia. The country has taken steps to improve gay rights, but issues such as same-sex marriage remain highly sensitive in the staunchly Catholic nation. Activist groups have announced an appeal against the referendum question with country's constitutional court, claiming it infringes on basic human rights. An anti-gay group, meanwhile, gathered over 700,000 signatures in support of the vote.

Croatia's liberal President Ivo Josipovic said he will vote against amending the constitution. "The question is: Do we need this kind of a referendum?" Josipovic asked. "I think that determining marriage between a man and a woman does not belong in the constitution. A nation is judged by its attitude toward minorities."

Croatia on July 1 became the newest member of the 28-nation European Union. The EU has not immediately commented on the referendum, but has clashed with Croatia over some of its laws, including an extradition law that Croatia had to amend under pressure.

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