Czech homosexuals come out in support of Slovak gays and lesbians

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After four decades of living in the closet, homosexuals in post-communist states are fighting for their place in the sun. Ironically, it seems that while the general public is by and large tolerant and sympathetic, some of the most serious hurdles on the way to gay rights are erected by politicians. This is true of the Czech Republic, and recent developments have shown that it is also true of neighbouring Slovakia, the Czech Republic's one-time federal partner. Daniela Lazarova has the story:

Just a fortnight ago, Slovak Justice Minister and head of the Christian Democratic Party Jan Carnogursky shocked the international community with a statement that was both uninformed and vicious. He advised Slovak homosexuals to forget about gay rights and seek medical attention, adding that as long as he was in office, their pleas would fall on deaf ears.

In case this left anyone in any doubt, a psychiatrist and member of parliament for the aforementioned Slovak Christian Democrats, Alojs Rakus, explained that "homosexuals do not breed and since they fail to fulfill this basic reproductive function, it is obvious that they are biologically defective." The fact that neither politician has since retracted the statement, apologized, or resigned shows how long and arduous the road to gay rights in Slovakia could be.

However, if you think that the philosophy of homosexuals as a defective breed is foreign to other statesmen in Central Europe, you would be mistaken. Czech homosexuals were treated to similar insults in Parliament from Christian Democrat MP Pavel Tollner not so long ago. During a heated debate on a proposed law on registered same-sex partnerships, Mr. Tollner called them pigs and said they should not be allowed to undermine the sacred institution of marriage. The law was rejected, and Mr. Tollner's words evoked a storm of protest from politicians, the public and the media.

According to the head of the Czech Homosexuals' Association, Jiri Hromada, such attacks on gays actually help their cause. "It makes people aware of the fact that we are being discriminated against and it makes them more supportive of our cause than they might otherwise have been," he told reporters. Although the politicians in question are not resigning, the association hopes people will remember their words when the next elections come around.

Meanwhile, the Association of Czech Homosexuals has dispatched letters in support of Slovak homosexuals to key Slovak institutions. Like Slovaks, Czech gays and lesbians are still fighting for the right to registered same-sex partnerships as a form of marriage. The advantage Czech homosexuals have at present is that the Cabinet supports their demands and has been making repeated attempts to get the proposed law approved by Parliament.