A Case of Evidence: The Evolution of LGBTQ+ Equality in the Czech Republic
The debate on "marriage for all" is more topical than ever in the Czech Republic. In June 2023, parliament adopted two very contradictory bills on the subject after a first reading. The first bill lays the foundation for the introduction of same-sex marriage, while the second wants to establish marriage as a partnership between a man and a woman. Which current will prevail in the end remains unclear. It is interesting to note, however, that the Czech Republic has been relatively progressive in the past.
Sexual Research in Prague
Czechoslovakia (ČSSR) was a forerunner in Eastern Europe in the decriminalisation of homosexuality. From 1950 to 1958, sexologists in Prague conducted a scholarly study of homosexuality where they questioned whether it might be curable. The results clearly showed that they had cured not one of the patients after eight years of research. According to the results, not even a marriage to a woman would cause a gay man to start favouring women for sex. The researchers concluded that being gay should not be a crime, since neither the subject nor doctors or psychiatrists could change it. The politicians of the time actually listened to the scientists and therefore ended the prosecution of homosexuality in 1962.
Although this law change was a great step forward, the problems for the LGBTQ+ community have not suddenly disappeared. One difficulty they faced was finding a place to live. Because of the limited availability of housing, authorities often gave preference to married couples. This made it almost impossible for single people to find a place to live. Queerness was supposed to be kept out of the public eye as much as possible. Coming out was not a common thing. The then rare coming outs sometimes evoked negative or even violent reactions in the environment, which in some cases could lead to suicides.
The 20th century
At the beginning of the century, the Czech Republic made great strides in expanding LGBTQ+ rights. In 2006, the Czech Parliament introduced registered partnerships for same-sex couples, providing a legal framework for their relationships. Subsequently, the parliament also passed a legislation in 2009 to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. These legal advancements marked important milestones in the pursuit of equality for LGBTQ+ individuals.
However, despite these positive developments, significant challenges persist. The institution of registered partnership is not equivalent to a marriage. The biggest difference relates to children. A couple in such a partnership cannot adopt a child together. Moreover, if one of the partners already had a child from a previous relationship, the other partner has no legal right to co-adopt it, even if the couple shares a household. Moreover, the so-called social parent (non-biological) does not have any rights to the child: he does not have the right to access information about the children's health at the hospital, there is no guarantee that the child can stay at the social parent's house after the death of the biological parent etc. On the other side, the child does not have any inheritance rights towards the parent. The couple itself has no ability to establish joint property.
Homophobic prejudices and discrimination still exist, particularly in conservative parts of society. However, a positive development in the society in this aspect is immense. According to Jsme fér, an NGO fighting for equal marriage, 38 % of Czechs supported marriage equality in 2008. In 2020, the number has risen to 67 %.
There is a growing recognition among policymakers and the public that further progress is needed. International developments and experiences of other European countries serve as examples and inspirations for advancing LGBTQ+ rights in the Czech Republic. The pressure on the government to enact comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and legalize same-sex marriage is mounting. Continued efforts to educate and engage society are crucial to ensuring the sustained momentum towards equality and acceptance.
Over the past decades, the LGBTQ+ community in the Czech Republic has witnessed significant progress, yet numerous hurdles remain. The historical legacy of suppression and discrimination still leaves its mark on the community. The current landscape is a blend of advancements and persistent challenges. However, the future prospects for LGBTQ+ rights in the Czech Republic are promising.
By leveraging the determination of the LGBTQ+ community, the support of allies, and the evolving societal attitudes, the Czech Republic can continue to advance towards a more inclusive and equitable society for all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. On the 29th of June 2023, the Czech parliament again debated the topic of marriage equality. In this first reading, the parliament adopted two opposing drafts. The initial draft sets the ground for introducing same-sex marriage. On the contrary, the second draft wants the Czech Constitution to protect marriage as a partnership between a man and a woman. There were similar results under the last government in April 2021. Here, too, various proposals were adopted in the first reading, but both remained without result before the change of government. Will the same thing happen again now?
The Czech Parliament committees will now further debate both proposals. Both drafts will now be submitted to the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Law for a second reading. The Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, Markéta Pekarová Adamová, admitted a possibility of a compromise, which would enforce same rights for the same-sex couples as for the heterosexual ones, but under a different name than the term “marriage”.
Organised for a better Future
LGBTQ+ organizations and activists, like the aforementioned Jsme fér, are working tirelessly to raise awareness, promote acceptance, and secure legal protections for the community. The younger generation, in particular, exhibits greater openness and acceptance toward sexual diversity, providing hope for a more inclusive future.
Probably the most successful group campaigning for LGBTQ+ rights in the Czech Republic is the Prague Pride association. Besides its branch organisation Jsme fér, which tries to inform Czech politics, Prague Pride also organises a whole week of concerts, discussions and debates: On 12 August 2023, the thirteenth Prague Pride Parade will take place, uniting the community in the capital for a colourful celebration. The mission of the organisers is to draw attention to the ongoing injustices against the queer community. The FNF office in Prague is in close contact with the organisation and had met the chairperson for an exchange just a few weeks ago.