EXPLAINED: Why Czechia still won't allow same-sex couples to marry

Ahead of this week's historic vote, we look at why the Czech Republic remains divided on the issue of gay marriage.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 26.02.2024 11:58:00 (updated on 28.02.2024) Reading time: 3 minutes

The Czech Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Parliament, is gearing up for a crucial vote this week on a bill that could potentially legalize same-sex marriage in the Czech Republic. Currently, the country allows registered partnerships for same-sex couples, falling short of providing the full spectrum of rights granted by marriage.

Earlier this month, Greece, a nation deeply rooted in orthodox Christianity and traditional values, managed to pass a vote legalizing same-sex marriage despite a thin majority in favor. In contrast, the Czech Republic, where, according to the Czech Statistical Office, only 15 percent of people consider themselves religious, is witnessing political division on the topic.

What is behind the political division?

The political division stems from an amendment proposed to the Civil Code, seeking to redefine marriage to include unions between individuals of the same sex. Advocates argue for equal rights and the preservation of dignity, emphasizing the enhanced legal protections marriage provides for families.

However, opposing voices resist altering the traditional definition of marriage, maintaining it as an institution solely between a man and a woman. Some lawmakers propose alternatives, like retaining registered partnerships while extending more rights to gay and lesbian couples, mirroring those enjoyed by married couples.

Within Parliament, various amendments are in play, offering alternatives where same-sex couples could enjoy spousal rights without necessarily adopting the label of marriage. Yet, disagreements persist, especially concerning children's rights in these partnerships.

Do the majority of Czechs support gay marriage?

A recent poll by Nielsen and Publicis Groupe indicates that most Czechs believe nothing would change for them if the law were to be passed. Nine percent anticipate a negative impact on their lives if the law is passed, while 80 percent believe it won’t affect them, and 11 percent expect improvement. The survey involved 1,021 Czech adults.

Is the amendment likely to pass?

The likelihood of the amendment passing remains uncertain, with the House of Representatives deeply divided. The Constitutional and Legal Committee’s failure to endorse the bill due to internal disagreements adds further complexity. Parties have granted their members a free vote, intensifying the unpredictability of the outcome.

The majority of MPs are in favor of the amendment, possibly with modifications. However, according to responses from MPs contacted by ČT, dozens of legislators remain undecided. This uncertainty has led to increased appeals to them, such as through petitions, in recent days.

What if the amendment doesn’t pass?

In the event the amendment fails to pass, the status quo will prevail, limiting same-sex couples to registered partnerships without the full range of marital rights. This would perpetuate the inequality in legal status between same-sex and heterosexual couples in Czechia, extending to aspects like joint property ownership and pension benefits.

Moreover, a failure to pass the amendment would not only reflect on the nation’s stance on LGBTQ+ rights but also echo internationally, akin to the country's failure to pass the controversial Istanbul Convention.

What do the critics say?

Critics argue that the opposition to marriage equality is driven by a small group of traditionalists, obstructing a change desired by the majority. This resistance, often rooted in religious sentiments, raises questions about political motives and the delicate balance between conservatism and liberalism in Czech politics.

“Marriage for all, which will help many people, harm no one, and is clearly desired by the majority of the state, is blocked by a small group of traditionalists. They flaunt religion, and for some reason, this rage works for them, even though their church is a significant minority in the population," writes Martin Lyko for LIU.

VoxPot adds, "It’s great that the list of 36 states where gays and lesbians can get married has been joined by another country and the first Orthodox country. And for now, we in the Czech Republic can only wait, tap our feet impatiently, and look at the clock that shows the year 2024.”

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