On July 1 the Czech Republic became the first former socialist country to enforce a law legalizing single-sex marriages. This became possible after the Czech parliament overrode the president’s veto with great difficulty.
The issue of the legalization of single-sex marriages arose immediately after the 'velvet revolution,' which took place in the country in 1989 and spread across the West. Over the course of 16 years, five attempts were made to pass this bill. The last of these dates back to Spring 2006 when deputies, following the initiative of Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek, were prepared to approve it, but President Vaclav Klaus immediately announced that he would veto it.
A pre-election campaign took place and the leader of the Social-democratic party Paroubek continued to press his case. He mobilized all the resources he had and got what he wanted. A seriously ill Social-democrat deputy was brought into parliament and in the event, 102 votes were obtained in favour of overriding the president’s veto. Czech homosexuals obtained the right to get married and such marriages will be registered on two days a week, Mondays and Wednesdays. In addition, 14 registry offices agreed to register non-traditional weddings, one in each region of the country.
Complete equal rights for representatives of sexual minorities have not been achieved. Citizens of another country will not be able to register a same-sex marriage on Czech territory. Furthermore, gay and lesbian couples are not permitted to adopt children, although a child born of a previous, heterosexual relationship may be raised by a homosexual couple. With regard to property, equality has been achieved: it will now be possible for homosexuals to bequeath their flat or business to their partners.
In general, since the early 1990s, the Czech Republic has become one of the centres of the sexual revolution. Directly after the collapse of socialism, the entire centre of Prague was decorated in posters showing images of naked women and across the country, new strip-tease clubs began popping up like mushrooms each day. One day, ex-president Vaclav Havel went for walk around the city and was horrified by the sight of such pictures, after which he ordered the sex industry to be restricted to night cellars. However, the spirit of the sexual revolution continued to thrive. A bill on the legalization of prostitution has already reached parliament and now awaits its turn for discussion.
A Pravda.Ru correspondent visited the Czech Republic in spring, when the country was preparing for the parliamentary elections and the first appearance of their team in the Football World Cup (the first since the split of Czechoslovakia – editor’s note). He noticed a large number of fan tours advertised on every almost every other billboard. From these, naked girls looked out, decorated with the colours of the national team. The political parties were not put out by the naked fans as they carried out their pre-election campaigns.
In conversation with the correspondent for Pravda.Ru, the Czechs explained the passing of the law on single-sex marriages with three reasons. The first is historical. Since the Czech Republic has lived through many religious wars and the socialist era, many of its citizens are atheists, who allow the moral suasions of the Catholic Church to pass them by (unlike their Polish neighbours – editor’s note). The second reason is political. For the past 15 years, the Czech Republic has aimed to be just like Western European countries. In terms of economy, it has managed to catch up with the poorest of these, Spain and Portugal, but it is determined not to stop at this and become like the most “advanced” countries: Holland, England, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland etc. The third reason is economic. The country has become fairly prosperous, so the government now has the time to address such issues.
It is curious to note that only members of the older generation have objected to the decision of the deputies. Young Czechs have reacted calmly to the legalization of single-sex marriages. “Let them live. As long as they don’t prevent us from loving members of the opposite sex. As for the Catholic Church, it has tarnished its name too strongly. And it’s unhealthy when a priest has to completely abstain from having a sex life from a young age,” says a 25 year-old psychologist from the University of Prague, summarizing the views of his peers.
Translated by Leila Wilmers
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