Five years since same-sex registered partnership was introduced activists say bill didn’t go far enough

It has been five years since the bill on registered partnership between gay couples came into force in the Czech Republic. During the period, more than 1,200 gay and lesbian couples in the country formed civil unions. While most within the gay community welcomed the original legislation as an important milestone, many still feel it didn’t go far enough as it failed to recognise gay marriage or adoption rights. Radio Prague spoke to Zdeněk Sloboda, a representative of PROUD, a Czech initiative promoting human rights.

“I think that it was a very important milestone but at the same time we think that there are still a lot of things that can be done for gays and lesbians on the topic of human rights. On the other hand, when you compare the situation east of the Czech Republic you see that even bigger struggles remain. So the fact that the bill passed here was important.”

On the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the bill do you think it has become more widely-accepted by Czechs? Are Czechs generally tolerant of the legislation?

“Towards the bill they are tolerant because there is this exception that gays cannot adopt children; generally the Czechs are tolerant towards same-sex unions but would be less so if the topic was gay marriage. Basically it’s conditional: gays and lesbians can have their union as long as it doesn’t have the same status as marriage and as long as they don’t adopt.”

What are areas where the bill has helped?

Zdeněk Sloboda
“I think it was more or less symbolic. And that’s important. But when we look at all the proposals that were submitted before, the one that passed was the most basic, the most bare-bones of them all, with the fewest options for gays and lesbians.”

Some of the items covered were fairly basic but also made common sense, for example being allowed access to a partner’s information if they were injured and in hospital...

“That’s right. The thing is... a lot of what was covered by the bill could equally have been handled by two or three personal contracts.”

You mentioned adoption obviously as a problem: that includes same-sex unions where one of the partners is a biological parent. In the event of their death, the surviving non-biological partner has no legal rights over the child, even though they have helped raise them and can have deep ties. Is that something that you think needs to be addressed?

“Definitely and I believe it will be in the near future. We are looking into legal steps in this area because under the current law a non-biological parent has obligations but no rights and we believe this should change. As far as I know a lawsuit will be filed to challenge this.”

So is it discrimination, in your view, against the non-biological parent?

“Yes. And it’s a big problem: we know about one hundred or so lesbian couples raising children in the Czech Republic between the ages of one and 15. And the non-biological parent cannot adopt a child they have helped raise if anything happens to their partner. This is a problem which will only increase.”