BRATISLAVA Slovakia's parliament rejected on Tuesday an opposition proposal to recognise homosexual partnerships in the strongly Catholic country, where coming out as gay remains relatively rare.
During two days of heated debate, conservatives accused the opposition of blasphemy, and said granting same-sex relationships equivalent legal status as heterosexual marriage was against traditional family values and a risk for society.
Only 14 of 129 deputies present voted to send the bill to a second reading, 94 were against and 20 abstained.
"The purpose of the official recognition of same-sex partnerships' legitimacy is the fulfilment of these people's love and responsible relationships," said opposition Freedom and Solidarity party member Martin Poliacik, co-author of the bill, in his opening speech to parliament last week.
Replying for the Christian Democrats, also an opposition party, Pavol Hrusovsky, former speaker of the house, said: "This draft law, ladies and gentlemen, is an insane legislative attempt to crash the entire legal system."
"This is something that is unprecedented," he said. "You are trying to change the face of this country."
Sixty-two percent of Slovaks declare themselves Roman Catholics and being gay remains taboo even two decades after the fall of communism and independence.
Of the European Union's 27 member states, 14 recognise same-sex partnerships, including the neighbouring Czech Republic.
The centre-right government of Robert Fico approved in October the creation of a committee for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, as a forum for public debate, a move criticised by the Christian Democrats and Slovakia's Conference of Bishops.
(Reporting by Martin Santa; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)