07/02/2015 15:47 GMT | Updated 07/02/2015 16:59 GMT

Slovakia Holds Referendum On Restricting Gay Rights

Slovakia held a national referendum on Saturday on placing further restrictions on gay rights. Reported by the BBC, citizens of the small European state were asked three questions: is marriage only between a man and a woman; should same-sex couples be banned from adoption; should children be allowed to skip sex education classes in school.

Amnesty International, who claimed the referendum “pander[s] to homophobic discrimination”, has lambasted the vote. The country, which is around 60% Roman Catholic, currently prohibits same-sex marriage following legislation introduced in 2014.

A billboard depicting Pope Francis with his thumb up, located at Klokocina district in Nitra, Slovakia, Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015, invites voters to the Slovak national referendum on the protection of the traditional family scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 7

The vote was brought by the conservative group Alliance for Children, with Slovakian political commenters framing the referendum as a conservative pushback against more liberal ideas bleeding across the border from Western Europe.

The vote was called after Alliance for Family gained more than 400,00 signatures on a petition. For the referendum to become law it requires a turnout of more than 50% of the population.

Speaking to AFP, Alliance for Family spokesperson Anton Chromik said: "The referendum isn't against same-sex couples, it's for children. The European Parliament and some EU member states have passed laws that undermine the unique nature of marriage, families and children's rights. We're worried about parents losing the freedom to raise their kids according to their beliefs."

The referendum received the backing of the Vatican. Pope Francis said in his Wednesday address: "I wish to express my appreciation to the entire Slovak Church, encouraging everyone to continue their efforts in defence of the family, the vital cell of society."

Amnesty argues otherwise; group spokeswoman Barbora Cernusakova said the vote could lead to a "significant step back for Slovakia”.

On Saturday, Jana Malovicova, head of Amnesty International Slovakia, told AFP: "The referendum will show whether Slovakia will join the growing wave of European measures promoting equality in human rights or swim against the current."

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