Gay groups angered by president's veto of registered partnership bill

President Vaclav Klaus, photo: CTK

President Vaclav Klaus caused dismay in the gay community on Thursday when he vetoed a law on registered partnerships for gay couples recently approved by the Czech parliament. Mr Klaus said his long-term opposition to gay marriage remained unchanged. The bill now goes back to parliament, where MPs must vote on whether to override Mr Klaus's veto. Rob Cameron has more.

President Vaclav Klaus,  photo: CTK
Earlier this year it looked as if the Czech Republic was about to become Europe's first post-communist country to legalise gay marriage. The legislation - apparently with the backing of public opinion - had been approved by the upper and lower houses of parliament and was waiting for the president's signature. But after deliberating for several weeks, Vaclav Klaus announced he was exercising his right of veto and sending the bill back to parliament.

Mr Klaus said he remained firmly opposed to the idea of registered partnership for gay couples. But he said his decision to veto it partly stemmed from the fact that just 86 MPs had voted in favour, out of 147 present at the time. That logic has angered gay rights activists, including Tereza Kodickova, spokesperson of the Gay and Lesbian League.

"[The bill was approved with a majority of at least] ten votes if I remember correctly. Which is a fair majority. Plus, if this is what the constitution says, what is necessary for a bill to be passed, so it did - so what argument is that? Third, there are bills that he has signed previously which passed by one vote. So why would it be insufficient in this case?"

Under the proposed law, same-sex couples would have the right to officially register - and terminate - their relationship. Gay couples would also have access to information on the health of their partner. They would be able to raise, but not adopt children.

The bill now goes back to parliament, where the governing Social Democrats must find 101 votes to override the president's veto. The outcome of that vote is unclear. The Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has pledged to muster the support of all 70 Social Democrat MPs, but several have indicated they'll vote against. He can most likely rely on the 10 votes of coalition partners the Freedom Union. But to guarantee the bill's passage he needs the support of the opposition Communist Party. They have criticised Mr Klaus's veto, but that in itself is no guarantee they will vote to override it.