A Slovenian MEP has spoken out against the “shameful” way opponents succeeded in blocking equal marriage.

The Central European country’s Parliament passed a bill to legalise same-sex marriage earlier this year – but a referendum was forced after campaigners against the law gathered 80,00 signatures.

The high hopes of pro-LGBT campaigners were dashed last night, as the public overwhelmingly voted to reject gay equality.

392,635 votes (63.53%) were cast against same-sex marriage, and just 225,435 (36.47%) in favour, on a turnout of 36%.

In a release to PinkNews, Slovenian Social Democrats MEP Tanja Fajon branded the process “shameful”.

Ms Fajon, also the Vice-President of the European Parliament’s LGBTI Intergroup, said: “It is shameful that a little more than 20 percent of the electorate has been able to block an amendment which does nothing more than giving people the rights that they should have had already long ago.

“I am confident, though, that we can work to fight legal discrimination against LGBTI Slovenians, building on the strong parliamentary support for full equality.”

Opponents in the referendum had enjoyed the strong support of the Catholic Church – and argued about the need to maintain the ‘traditional family’.

Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld added: “Equal marriage will come, sooner or later.

“We easily forget that equal marriage was adopted in the Netherlands just fourteen years ago. The rest of the world thought we were crazy.

“Today 12 EU Member States have equal marriage, and 22 countries worldwide.”

“Last month, we celebrated Cyprus joining the growing list of countries legally recognising same-sex couples via registered partnership.

“Equal marriage will one day exist throughout the EU. And the EU will be a happier place for it!”

Slovenian LGBT group DIC Legebitra also spoke about the defeat.

Simon Maljevac of DIC Legebitra, who also co-chaired the ‘YES’ campaign, said: “The voters had a chance to put the values of solidarity, love, equality and family into practice but the conservative majority showed that it is not time yet for YES in Slovenia.

“We have tried to show that there is no reason to deny a group of people the right to marry solely because of their sexual orientation but the feelings of fear and opponents misleading information during the campaign prevailed.”