A nationwide referendum on restricting gay rights in Slovakia has failed to produce a legally binding result after the required number of eligible voters did not turn out.

In Saturday's vote, Slovaks were asked whether they agree to three points: that marriage can only be called a union between a man and a woman; that same-sex partners must be barred from adopting children; and that it's up to parents to decide whether their children receive sex education.

The vote was forced by the Alliance for Family, a social conservative group that received massive support from the Catholic Church.

With all the votes tallied early on Sunday by the country's statistics office, voters in the predominantly Catholic country overwhelmingly voted "yes" - 95, 92 and 90 percent respectively to the three questions.

But turnout reached only 21.4 percent, far less than the 50 percent needed.

A leader of the alliance, Anton Chromik, said he was delighted that a clear majority of the voters who participated in the ballot supported the alliance and called it "a good base" for its further activities.

Romana Schlesinger, an LGBT activist, said she hoped the government will now work to make it possible for same-sex couples to live in registered partnerships because "our families are living without legal recognition or protection".

Slovakia does not allow same-sex partners to live in registered partnerships and the country's constitution was amended last year to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

The vote in Slovakia, which follows a similar one that succeeded in Croatia in 2013, points to a cultural divide within the European Union in which more established Western members are rapidly granting new rights to gays, while eastern newcomers entrench conservative attitudes towards LGBT people.

Source: Agencies