As the EU takes a step forward for gay rights, Czechia stands still on the issue

As the EU enforces same-sex couples’ rights throughout the bloc, an amendment recognizing gay adoption stalls in the Czech Senate.

 William Nattrass

Written by William Nattrass Published on 16.12.2021 13:11:00 (updated on 16.12.2021) Reading time: 2 minutes

The Czech Republic continues to lag behind other European countries in protecting the rights of LGBT+ people. Proposals to legalize same-sex marriage have been stuck in the Czech parliament for years, with little political will to push through change.

Now, the Czech Senate has failed to pass an amendment which would have forced Czech courts to recognize adoptions of children abroad by same-sex couples. The amendment was intended to ensure that gay couples could enter the Czech Republic without losing their rights as the guardians of their children.

The Senator who tabled the amendment, Václav Láska, said the current law runs contrary to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, agreed by three constitutional judges after the case of a Czech-American same-sex couple was brought before the Constitutional Court. Another example given by Láska was snowboarder Šárka Pančochová, who adopted the daughter of her American wife in the U.S.A. but cannot return to the Czech Republic as she would lose her rights as a parent.

Yet the Senate did not accept the amendment: 23 of the 65 senators present voted in favor of the amendment and 31 were against. The motion needed 33 votes to pass.

Czech courts can currently recognize foreign adoptions by Czech citizens on the condition that it “is not hindered by the exclusive jurisdiction of the Czech courts” and as long as “adoption would be permissible under the substantive provisions of the Czech law.” Láska’s amendment was to remove this conditionality from the law on recognizing foreign adoptions.

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With the amendment failing to pass, the Czech law could be heading for conflict with a new ruling from the European Court of Justice that parental rights must be recognized in all EU member states without distinction. With this ruling, the ECJ is trying to override national laws which impose restrictions on same-sex couples who adopted abroad.

The Czech Jsme fér initiative responded to the ruling by saying that “we have again moved a little closer to the full recognition of the parental status of two mothers or two fathers. We’re giving a big thumbs up to the European Court of Justice for taking this important step in the right direction.”

The EU’s directive for unconditional equal rights throughout the bloc conflicts somewhat with the current state of Czech law. It also won’t fix the general inequality in parentage facing same-sex couples in the Czech Republic: unlike heterosexual couples, only one of the parents can be listed as the child’s legal guardian.

Still, the EU ruling may lead greater peace of mind for parents who adopted abroad and are looking to move to the Czech Republic; a peace of mind which the Senators tried and failed to foster through the national law-making process.

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