By Hugo Greenhalgh
LONDON, Feb 24 (Openly) - Croatia's president on Monday condemned the burning of an effigy of two men and a child at a festival weeks after the country's highest court ruled that same-sex couples could foster children.
Zoran Milanovic said the burning of the effigy, which depicted two men kissing, at a festival in southern Croatia on Sunday was "inhumane and totally unacceptable".
Organisers of the event in the town of Imotski "deserve the strongest condemnation of the public because hatred for others, intolerance and inhumanity are not and will not be a Croatian tradition", Milanovic posted on his verified Facebook page.
The Imotski carnival organisers did not respond to a request for comment via their Facebook page.
Croatia legalised gay sex in 1977, but the country remains deeply conservative, with more than 80% of the population adhering to Catholicism, according to a 2011 census.
Almost two-thirds of Croatians voted in a 2013 referendum in favour of a motion that enshrined marriage in the country's constitution as between a man and a woman.
Same-sex couples can enter into legal partnerships, but the country has stopped short of allowing gay marriages.
Gay couples do not have the right to adopt, but earlier this year, Croatia's highest court ruled that they could become foster parents.
Croatia has a long tradition of burning effigies of politicians and other public figures as part of its countrywide carnival celebrations, and it is not the first time the festivities have sparked controversy.
In February 2018, party-goers at a festival in Kastela, a popular destination for tourists on the Dalmatian coast, set fire to a replica of the country's first children's picture book depicting same-sex parenting, "My Rainbow Family".
Brian Finnegan, a spokesman for LGBT+ rights organisation ILGA-Europe, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that the burning of the effigy represented "another sign of the rise in hate in Europe that is being fuelled by anti-LGBT rhetoric".
"This is a clear expression of hatred," Finnegan added. (Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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