Marriage equality campaigner: Vote shows Czechia doesn't belong to West

Czech MPs have approved broader rights for people in same-sex unions. However in a vote on Wednesday they stopped short of approving same-sex marriage or equal rights when it comes to adoption. I discussed the news with Czeslaw Walek, the head of Jsme fér/We Are Fair, a group pushing for marriage equality for many years.

Czeslaw Walek | Photo: Daniela Honigmann,  Radio Prague International

“I won’t hide it, we are disappointed with the outcome. Because in the 21st century, in 2024, we expected that our politicians would reflect the will of the general public and would adopt marriage equality with full rights for LGBTIQ people.”

Opinion polls do suggest that most people are for marriage equality. But still, a lot of MPs have voters who are conservative or religious. Doesn’t Wednesday’s vote kind of reflect the simple reality of differing views in Czech society?

“I think it reflects the views of politicians, not of society. When you look at the polls, across different polling agencies, they show support for marriage equality around 65 percent, constantly.

“And I think the politicians should also look at what benefits the law can bring to citizens. It’s undeniable that marriage equality definitely brings more positive outcomes to the future of the Czechs than anything else.”

Some people may say that sexual minorities will have broader rights than before when it comes to their unions. Do you accept that this is at least a step closer to your demands?

“Yes. Of course. The bill that passed the lower chamber yesterday definitely brings more rights to LGBTIQ people.

“The chamber for the first time recognised the rainbow family, let’s put it that way. Although they put a bureaucratic burden on the families, they for the first time said, Yes, we recognise that in the Czech Republic there are same-sex couples who have children – and they have rights too.

“So this is a big step forward. But what went through yesterday in the lower chamber is the thing that went through in Western Europe in the ‘90s.

“We are not in the ‘90s, and that’s where our frustration is. Our politicians are saying that we belong to the West. But their actions yesterday show that we are still behind an iron wall.”

For those who haven’t been following this story so closely, what practically speaking are the rights that you feel are most important to achieve, that for you are key?

“Full equality. The decision that happened yesterday is that Parliament showed to LGBTIQ people that they are still second class citizens.

“The amendment that they adopted yesterday means that those parents that want to adopt kids from foster care have to go through the process twice, individually.

“The question is why. Why can straight couples go through the adoption process only once but lesbians or gays have to go through it twice? Including the child. So they are putting the family through the stress of bureaucratic process twice.”

Some people are saying that Czech MPs have only really delayed the inevitable, that marriage equality will eventually arrive in this country. Do you think that’s true? If so, when could you imagine it coming here?

“Yes, I think that it is inevitable. I was hoping that it was already inevitable now, in 2024. Apparently our politicians think that it’s too early – and let’s wait another 10 or 15 years.

“I think it’s unfair to future generations, what they did yesterday and what they are doing. Because this is really a bill about future generations – and what message they send to young LGBTIQ people in this country.”