Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

SF gay couple change
Czech family law


Franck Marchis, left, and Jindra Vackar won a key adoption ruling in the Czech Republic for their twin sons, Viktor Marchis-Vackar and Etian Marchis-Vackar. Photo: Steven Underhill
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A San Francisco couple who challenged the Czech Republic's ban on gay adoption won a landmark decision for their family, and they hope it will better the lives of other LGBT families in Europe.

On November 5, a judge in the Prostejov court in the southern Moravian region of the Czech Republic recognized the gay men's international adoption of 10-year-old fraternal twin boys, stating that it didn't go against the Czech Republic's public policy, said the couple's attorney Petr Kalla.

Conservatives were using the public policy to block gay adoptions as they had with civil partnerships, according to Czech gay activist Czeslaw Walek. Civil partnerships became law in 2006, but didn't allow for same-sex or second-parent adoptions.

Last June, an opinion poll found that 49 percent of Czechs oppose joint adoption by gay couples, compared to 44 percent who support it. However, 59 percent of respondents to the survey supported stepchild adoption, reported Gay Star News.

Kalla said that the men, Jindra Vackar and Franck Marchis, are now able to register the boys as citizens of the Czech Republic and receive the children's Czech birth certificates with both father's names on them.

At the end of the long decision, the judge wrote in bold type, "Either way I don't believe that by giving two gay dads onto the birth certificate that the defense of the government or the civil order of the whole country will collapse," summarized Vackar, who's a director of financial planning and is originally from the Czech Republic.

"For the first time there is a person or a Czech citizen that has on the birth certificate two people of the same gender," said Vackar. "That has never happened."

Up until that point, even Vackar didn't have rights to his children when they visited the Czech Republic, where his family still lives.


The path to making history

Vackar met Marchis, an astronomer from France, in San Francisco in 2003.

Vackar, 41, is currently a permanent resident of the U.S., but he's working on obtaining his citizenship, he said. Marchis, 42, holds dual citizenship in France and the U.S.

Two years after the couple met, they married in Vancouver, Canada in 2005. The couple didn't know it at the time, but by coincidence, their sons, Etian and Viktor Marchis-Vackar, were born the same day they wed, the two men said.

Marchis and Vackar welcomed the then-5-month-old foster babies into their home through Family Builders by Adoption, a foster care and adoption organization based in Oakland. A year and a half later they officially became a family when their adoption was finalized in May 2007.

Three years later, Vackar filed to have the boys recognized as Czech citizens to obtain their birth certificates. Vackar explained to the Bay Area Reporter that in Europe, unlike the U.S., citizens' identification cards are tied to their birth certificates and hold detailed information about a person's parentage, place of birth, and profession.

The couple fought for the right for their sons to have dual citizenship in the Czech Republic because a representative of the French Embassy pretty much told Marchis "not to waste your time," even just eight months ago, he said. Having the European IDs would make their lives easier while traveling throughout Europe as well as give them options, they said.

Currently, it's a complicated legal situation with American, Czech, and French citizenship on top of being two gay men with children.

Marchis explained that Europeans have specialized passports within Europe that are automated, making travel between countries, especially with a family, easier, as just one of the many reasons the couple jumped through the legal hurdles.

"As any family, we wanted to make sure that we cannot be divided," said Vackar.

Marchis agreed, recalling a story when they were traveling across a border. They were stopped. The border guard was confused as to who the father was.

"She thought something funny was going on and we called the supervisor of the border crossing," said Marchis. The situation was cleared up and they moved on, but having the correct European IDs will help significantly.

"When they receive their Czech citizenship we will all be on the same level for the American and the European," said Vackar.

However, a process that would take heterosexual couples in a similar situation six months to be granted the correct documentation took the couple and their attorney five years.

"To be honest, they didn't want to decide in our favor, but they didn't want to decide against us either. So, that's why it was taking a very long time," said Vackar.

The court's stalling in Prague was upended two years ago by a new civil code that allowed for international decisions to be accepted by any court that has a jurisdiction in the Czech Republic. Judges could make a decision as long as a permanent residency was established.

"That meant that I could actually go to the court in my hometown rather than waiting in Prague because the Prague court is notoriously very slow and had not decided," said Vackar.

The couple jumped at the opportunity, filing a case in the Prostejov court in the southern Moravian region, where Vackar is from and retains his residency and where the boys spend vacations with their grandmother.

The Prostejov court made a landmark move by deciding against the Czech Republic government's position that the law is above children's rights by deciding that a gay couple could adopt because "every child has the right to have parents," said Vackar.

The boys, who consider themselves partially Czech and French, now know that they will have dual citizenship like their other Czech friends in San Francisco.

"We have told them that the court has decided that they have the right for Czech citizenship, just like their Czech friends that they have here in town," said Vackar. "We told them that they can stay with their grandma if they want to in the future."


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