Analysis: Czech gays can have partnership; marriage is reserved for heterosexuals


Central Europe

Evert van Vlastuin, CNE.news

Gays in Czechia had hoped to be able to marry. But parliament decided differently. Photo EPA, Martin Divisek

Many had expected that Czechia would embrace entire same-sex marriage. However, the parliament only extends the existing partnership for homosexual couples. The decision shows that even in a secular country such as the Czech Republic, homosexuals do not have a self-evident monopoly.

On Wednesday evening, the Czech parliament voted against formalising same-sex marriage. Some elements were changed in the partnership rules. Adoption of children, however, is still limited to a few cases.

The Czech society has debated this issue for a long time. In September last year, 66 large companies stated in an open letter that opening marriage for people of the same sex as well would be good for the economy. After all, gay marriage had become sort of the norm in the European Union.

This was an answer to the veto of the then-Czech president, Milos Zeman. In June 2022, he had said that he would veto a bill from the left-wing Pirate Party to open marriage to all. This did not block the process since the president has no executive power in Czechia.

Shortly after this, a group of 54 Czech MPs tabled an amendment to enshrine marriage as a union of one man and one woman in the constitution.

After this, the government started preparing a change in the Civil Code. This was accepted in July last year in a first reading.

The vote on Wednesday in the lower house is a compromise between the left and liberal parties (such as the Greens) and the conservatives, including the Christian Democratic KDU-ČSL. From Prime Minister Petr Fiala is not known what his position is. His government took no position in the debate.

The Christian Democrats favoured attaching more rights to registered partnerships but did not support equating them to marriage. “Marriage should be the security and stability of the family and society, not a fashion trend. It is the staple of society that holds it together”, said Marian Jurečka, the party’s chairman, in a statement. “At the same time, however, we have clearly been saying all along that it was necessary to straighten out the rights of all couples.”

So, same-sex relationships remain partnerships at the very most, then, after Wednesday evening’s vote. Legislation for a “registered” partnership was introduced in 2006 the Czech Republic. The addition “registered” has disappeared now.

In the new law, most rights are the same as in marriage. However, people cannot adopt a child unless one of the partners is the biological parent. In practice, this will probably work out mainly to the advantage of lesbian couples.

LGBT campaigners responded that this was “a sad day” for Czech rainbow families. “We have not reached real equality”, European Affairs Minister Martin Dvořák said. The Czech human rights commissioner, Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková, said “in terms of equality, the marriage-for-all option would be optimal. I believe the Czech Republic will legalise marriage for all in the future.”

The pro-family movement Aliance pro rodinu (Alliance for the family) was happy that marriage as such was not redefined. But according to a statement, the organisation regretted that children have a “right to have both a father and a mother.”

The vote on Wednesday was in the lower house. The bill now goes to the Senate.

Last year, it became clear that 58 per cent of the population supported full marriage for same-sex couples. Thirty-eight per cent was against. So, the lower house voted a bit more conservative than expected by the population.

Wednesday’s decision is remarkable from the view of religious belonging. In Greece, a country with an Orthodox majority, same-sex marriage was accepted earlier this month. In Czechia, where only 15 per cent consider themselves religious, same-sex marriage seems to be one step too far.



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