Following a meeting held on monday with Croatian LGBT groups, the Mayor of Zagreb Milan Bandic has said the city would host and sponsor an annual LGBT conference.

The annual conference of ILGA-Europe, now to take place in the city will have family relations as its main theme.

“Zagreb is a tolerant, secure and hospitable city,” Mayor Bandic said.

ILGA-Europe also said that Croatian President Ivo Josipovic would address the gathering, which will be held under the banner Family matters! Reaching out to hearts and minds. EU special representative for human rights Stavros Lambrindis is also expected to speak at the event.

The issue of whether gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to adopt children and marry has been particularly topical in Croatia of late as those on both sides of the debate have stepped up efforts.

In June, a Croatian gay pride parade took to the streets against a backdrop of a proposed referendum to define marriage as a heterosexual union.

The event followed the planned initiative intended to rule out the possibility of legalising same-sex marriages.

LGBT campaigners against the referendum plan to march in Croatia’s capital city, Zagreb. ”We don’t want to hear any more that we’re second class citizens or guests in our own country,” stated one supporter.

More than 700,000 people signed a recent petition to change the constitution to define marriage as “the lifelong union of a woman and a man,” but opponents are now stepping forward to continue the fight against homophobic discrimination.

ILGA-Europe is an international umbrella group which brings together 408 organisations from 45 European countries to campaign for equal rights.