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Croatia adopts long-awaited law allowing same-sex partnerships

ZAGREB, Croatia--Croatian lawmakers adopted Tuesday a long-awaited law allowing gay couples to register as life partners, enjoying the same rights as their heterosexual peers except on adopting children.

Gay rights activists hailed the legislation in the largely conservative EU member state, which is strongly influenced by the powerful Roman Catholic Church.

“Croatia made a historic step forward to stand along progressive countries which have already resolved the issue,” Iva Tomecic, editor-in-chief of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) news portal CroL, told AFP.

“From now on same sex couples and families can finally legally regulate their unions... knowing that the country where they live, work and pay taxes is treating them as equal citizens,” she said.

A total of 95 MPs in the 151-member parliament voted for the law and 10 abstained, but none voted against.

In a referendum sought by a Church-backed group, Croatians voted last year to amend the constitution to include a definition of marriage as a “union between a woman and a man”.

However Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic's centre-left government pledged to improve gay rights and adopted a bill enabling homosexual couples to register as “life partners”.

The “In the Name of the Family” group that initiated the referendum slammed the new law as being “against honesty, basic democratic rules and Croatia's constitution”.

“This ideological law will fail,” it said in a statement.

'Significant improvements'

In the small nation of 4.2 million where almost 90 percent of population is Roman Catholic, attitudes towards gay rights have gradually become more liberal even before Croatia joined the EU last July as its newest member.

During its first Gay Pride parade in Zagreb in 2002, dozens of participants were beaten up by extremists.

But gay rights marches are now staged regularly, although still under heavy security.

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