Out in the World: Czech president signs expanded same-sex partnership rights into law — fight for marriage continues

  • by Heather Cassell, BAR Contributor
  • Friday May 3, 2024
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Pride marchers in the Czech Republic hold up a rainbow sign saying, "See the Love, See the Families," in 2023. Photo: Courtesy picture-alliance/dpa<br>
Pride marchers in the Czech Republic hold up a rainbow sign saying, "See the Love, See the Families," in 2023. Photo: Courtesy picture-alliance/dpa

Same-sex couples in the Czech Republic are a step closer to marriage equality, as pro-LGBTQ President Petr Pavel has expanded their rights under a new law.

The "partnership" bill that Pavel signed April 29 grants more rights to same-sex Czech couples who have registered their relationships. Under the old 2006 civil partnership law, registered same-sex couples were allowed to officially register their partnership but were granted limited rights similar to opposite-sex couples, reported the Associated Press. The law did not grant adoption, joint property rights, or widow's pension, among other rights heterosexual couples enjoy.

The new law, which goes into effect January 1, is still limited in terms of adoption rights, but otherwise grants benefits such as shared property and inheritance rights. Adoption remains restricted but was expanded from being banned to allowing the partner of a biological parent to adopt their children.

Czech gay rights activist Czeslaw Walek, who is director of We are Fair Initiative (Jsme Fer), was critical of the new law. He pointed out both its benefits for LGBTQ families and enforcement of ongoing inequality for the queer community, which he vowed to continue to fight.

We are Fair is the leading marriage equality organization in the Central European country.

"The law on partnership passed by the Czech Parliament and President Petr Pavel does not ensure equality, dignity, the same quality of life, or full acceptance," Walek wrote in an April 30 statement to the Bay Area Reporter.

Walek praised the country's political leaders for recognizing LGBTQ families, calling it "quite significant" for the moment, and stating it is "good news for our entire society."

"The partnership law will now help thousands of same-sex couples and families of two mothers or two fathers with children live a little better and sleep more peacefully," he said, noting the historic moment of the country recognizing for the first time "the existence of families formed by two moms or two dads with children."

However, he pointedly stated, "this adopted bill remains discriminatory against same-sex couples and their children."

"It does not give them the same rights as other citizens," he said, stating that same-sex couples wanting to adopt will have to go through the process twice. "It disadvantages children based solely on the relationship orientation of those who adopt them."

Walek was firm in We are Fair's commitment to obtaining marriage equality, stating the organization will continue the fight "so that one day we, too, in the Czech Republic can celebrate the possibility for same-sex couples to enter into marriage."

Quest for marriage equality

Since 2016, the B.A.R. has covered LGBTQs' quest for marriage equality in the country. It was that year that Czech LGBTQ activists launched their campaign for same-sex marriage during that year's Pride celebrations in Prague and invited members of San Francisco's Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, a drag nun charitable group, to the festivities.

Czech LGBTQ activists were optimistic that same-sex marriage would easily pass in the secular country. They were surprised when they hit a wall of resistance, they told the B.A.R. In 2021, Parliament's lower chamber passed the country's same-sex marriage bill and defeated a separate bill to ban same-sex marriage.

The country's same-sex marriage movement has enjoyed some high-profile support too. In 2019, former Prime Minister Andrej Babi openly supported same-sex marriage. More recently, Pavel, who took office last year, openly supported marriage equality.

But three months ago, the Czech Parliament chose to expand civil partnership rights rather than grant marriage equality in a 123-36 vote.

Responding to Parliament's vote, Pavel took to X offering Czech's LGBTQ community hope in the face of not reaching their goal in late February.

"I recognize the principle of freedom and equality of every person from the point of view of law and see no reason to limit rights based on sexual orientation," he wrote. "I believe we are a tolerant society, and we will rectify these rights as soon as possible. There is no change in this position of mine."

More than half of the 27 European Union countries have legalized same-sex marriage. However, there is resistance to marriage equality among many former communist countries, which are more conservative.

The Czech Republic joined the E.U. in 2004.

According to a CVVM agency opinion poll last year, 58% of Czechs believed same-sex couples should have the right to marry, and even more said they should be allowed to adopt, reported Reuters.

Got international LGBTQ news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at WhatsApp/Signal: 415-517-7239, or [email protected]

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