Bill legalising gay marriage to be debated this week

Photo illustrative: Nick Karvounis / Unsplash

The Czech Republic could become the first post-communist country to legalise same sex marriage. An amendment to the country’s Civil Code is set to have its first reading in Parliament this week. While polls show that the majority of the country supports the move, there is also an opposing bill on the table.

Photo: Nick Karvounis,  Unsplash,  CC0 1.0 DEED

The Czech Republic currently offers civil partnerships for same-sex couples. However, advocates of gay marriage say the current system still leaves them at a disadvantage.

Apart from the symbolic difference of being called “registered partners” rather than “spouses”, gay marriage advocates also say there are practical deficiencies. These include the inability to claim widow pensions, or to collectively adopt a child.

Yet gay couples are now hoping things could change. An amendment to the Czech Civil Code, which allows same-sex marriage, is set to have its first reading in Parliament this week.

Radek Konečný from the Jsme fér movement, which advocates gay marriage, says the initiative has strong backing among the LGBT community.

“I consider it an important measure that would help members of the community live better lives in this country. The Czech Republic has a unique opportunity to become the first post-communist country to legalise gay marriage and place itself among the modern part of the world.”

Supporters of the bill can also rely on backing from the majority of the population, says sociologist Daniel Prokop from the MEDIAN research agency, who analysed polling results from three separate agencies.

“Since 2015 the majority of Czechs support gay marriage and you cannot find any reliable survey that would show otherwise. If you combine the three recent surveys from 2015, you can see that more or less 60 percent of Czechs support gay marriage and 35 percent are against.”

Marek Výborný,  photo: Stanislav Kolařík CC BY-SA 4.0
Even so, the bill’s chances of winning approval are far from certain.

While support for it has come from across the political spectrum, including MPs from the largest ANO party, as well as some opposition parties, opinions within the parties themselves seem split and MPs are unlikely to vote unilaterally.

A counter-bill, which seeks to coin the term ‘marriage’ as an exclusive union between man and woman is also set to be discussed.

The proposition was put forward by the Christian Democrats. Their MP, Marek Výborný, says that his party is also against the right for gay couples to adopt children. However, they are willing to discuss the extension of other marriage rights to registered partners.

“We did not prepare the amendment as a reaction to the proposal of our colleagues. In context of the debate surrounding the definition of marriage, which was led both in society and Parliament, we came to the conclusion that marriage is such an important institution that, as in some other European states, it deserves to be protected by the constitution.”

Mr. Výborný says the bill is unlikely to be passed in the coming week. However, even if it were to pass eventually, it will run into difficulties with the President, who said that he is considering vetoing such legislation.