Prague, Czech Republic – When news broke last year that Czech lawmakers were about to vote on a bill legalising same-sex marriage, hopes were high among civil rights and LGBT activists: the Czech Republic was poised to become the first post-communist state in Europe to allow same-sex couples to get married. But since then, nothing has happened, and the prospects look bleak.
As local media reported, Czech President Milos Zeman has vowed to veto the bill on same-sex marriage, arguing that the purpose of marriage was for a family to bring up children. Although he has nothing personally against homosexuals, he said, a homosexual couple could never bring up children, and the state must therefore ensure to support heterosexual marriages. He made those comments last Thursday, talking to reporters from TV Barrandov.
Last June, the lower house of Parliament debated two proposals on the issue of the legalisation of same-sex marriage: backed by members of ANO, the Social Democrats, the Pirates and the Party of Mayors, an amendment to the Civil Code proposed to give homosexual couples the same rights as heterosexuals ones, including the possibility to get married and to adopt children. The proposal was backed by 46 MP’s. Spearheaded by the Christian Democrats, an opposing bill – backed by 37 lawmakers – aimed to include the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the constitution, and preserve the status quo. Under the current legislation, nearly 3.000 same-sex couples are living under civil partnerships, recognized since 2006.
For the bill legalising same-sex marriage to be passed by Parliament, a simple majority in the 200-seat house is needed. While the final vote was initially scheduled to take place in November, it has since then been postponed. And although the vote is now supposed to be held in January, the exact timetable remains unclear.
As many studies point out, Czechs rank among the most liberal and open-minded toward the LGBT community in Central and Eastern Europe. To explain it, experts point to the strong secularism of the Czech Republic, in comparison with neighboring Poland or Slovakia, where the Church has a strong voice and influence over political and social issues. The country’s main cities, Prague and Brno, both have a very dynamic LGBT scene.
According to the Jsme Fér initiative, one of the leading organisations promoting the rights of the LGBT community in the Czech Republic, 67% of Czechs are in favor of marriage equality between homosexual and heterosexual couples.
But Milos Zeman’s latest comments cast some doubt on the possibility for same-sex couples to get married in the near future – although the Czech Parliament can override a presidential veto with a single majority.
The first directly elected president of the Czech Republic in 2013, Milos Zeman was reelected in 2018 for a second term. A former figure of the Social Democratic party (CSSD) and Prime Minister from 1998 to 2002, Zeman is a highly controversial figure in Czech politics today and is now mainly known for promoting a pro-Russian agenda – something he shares with predecessor Vaclav Klaus – and the numerous controversies his derogatory and provocative comments toward journalists, migrants or ethnic minorities have sparked.