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Macedonia Fails to Amend Constitution Against Gay Marriage

25/09/2013 12:57 BST | Updated 25/11/2013 10:12 GMT

An amendment to alter Macedonia's constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman was defeated, failing to reach a two third majority vote on Tuesday.

In order to amend the constitution 79 Macedonian Members of Parliament (MPs) out of 123 must vote in its favour, but only 47 voted supported it, with 26 against and 12 abstaining.

Marriage is already defined as union between a man and a woman under country's Family Law.

The country's ruling party, VMRO-DPMNE, proposed the amendment in order to block the possibility that the Family Law might be amended in the future by a simple majority vote (42 legislators).

During a debate on the amendment on Monday, lawmaker Dragisha Miletic, of the Serbian Progressive Party of Macedonia warned that the constitution must be changed in order to protect against possible future pressure from the European Union (EU), to which Macedonia aspires to join.

Miletic added: "LGBT people are more visible now and they fight for their rights, but they won't stop there. They will ask for marriage equality too.

"In socialism homosexuality was punishable by law and it was fine by me. It's not hate, for me it is illness, and you are free to follow the trends if you want to. Just be aware when you walk around, you must stick your ass facing the wall."

Petar Stojkovikj, spokesperson for the Macedonian Women's Alliance was encouraged by the defeat but said stressed that anti-gay laws and violence is still rife in Macedonia.

Stojkovikj told me: "Diversity is a source of strength and together we should work on building a society where everyone is free to live their lives as they choose, without discrimination and with the opportunity to achieve their maximum potential.

"We must leave the homophobia and the transphobia behind. There's no place for such things in a democratic society and a candidate country for EU accession."

There has been a recent spate of anti-gay violence sweeping through the small former Yugoslav nation, located in the Balkans region of Europe.

In July and June, an angry mob surrounded and attacked the home of Stojkovikj, who is also a famous Macedonian openly gay TV star.

In both cases, assailants threw stones at the house and shouted threats and homophobic slurs.

In July 5 Macedonia's LGBTI centre was torched and on June 22, it was attacked by mob of about 30 people.

A high-ranking member of Macedonia's Prime Minister's cabinet promised that authorities "fully intend to carry out justice to the full extent according to the letter of the law."

According to Stojkovikj no arrests have been made until this date.

The cabinet official also said: "discrimination on any basis will not be tolerated."

Stojkovikj said that Macedonia's authorities have not delivered on either promise and despite countless pleas from European Union officials and campaign groups such as Human Rights Watch and prominent human rights advocates such Peter Tatchell.

Stojkovikj said that it seems as if the authorities are determined to continue using Macedonia's LGBT community in a highly charged political discourse that incites hate speech and violence.

Commenting on the news, Tatchell said: "Although the bid to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage failed, the fact that it was attempted is another example of the homophobic atmosphere that has swept Macedonia in recent months, including shocking violence against the LGBT centre.

"The country is clearly not ready for EU membership. Assurances of action against homophobia have come to nothing.

"Brussels should make it clear to the Macedonian government that it will be blocked from joining until it takes serious action to tackle homophobic attitudes and violence and until it provides full legal protection to LGBT citizens."