Lawmakers passing the country’s same-sex marriage bill’s first vote in parliament’s lower chamber April 29 thrilled LGBTQ Czechs. At the same time, the split government also voted on the opposition’s bill to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage, which also passed. However, it would need a higher threshold to become law.
Czeslaw Walek, chairman of Prague Pride and head of We Are Fair Campaign, the country’s organization fighting for marriage equality, was “thrilled” by the vote on the marriage bill, calling it a “huge success,” in an email to the Bay Area Reporter.
“It sent a signal that the change is possible if we vote for representatives that support our cause,” he wrote, referring to the Easter European country’s forthcoming October general election.
Marriage equality opponents lacked six votes among 93 lawmakers present for the vote in the Czech Chamber of Deputies, reported Reuters.
Seventeen members of parliament abstained. Twenty-nine members of parliament abstained from voting for the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, “which in effect helped them,” wrote Walek, the 46-year-old gay activist.
Walek wrote that the opposition needs to meet a two-thirds majority to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage, which “will be almost impossible to reach.”
“I am worried that we did not get a clear signal from our representatives that this option is not an option in the modern Czech society,” wrote Walek.
Both bills have languished in the Czech Parliament since 2018.
The bills are supported by a near even split of opposing deputies on each side of the debate.
“Our public representatives are not brave decision-makers,” wrote Walek. “I would say they hardly deserve agnomen decision-makers.”
There are a couple more hurdles the bill must get over before it can become law and make the Czech Republic the first former Soviet-bloc country to legalize same-sex marriage. The Senate must pass the bill for it to go to the president’s desk for his signature for it to become law.
It is unclear if it can pass through these hurdles before the country’s October election.
“Realistically, we do not believe that we will manage to win marriage equality before elections,” Walek wrote.
His goal is not to necessarily push for a vote before the election, but to energize the Czech Republic’s marriage equality base to vote for candidates who support same-sex-marriage.
“This is a huge mobilization element for our base, to vote for pro-marriage candidates in upcoming elections, so next Parliament will vote for marriage equality swiftly,” wrote Walek, who wants to make this election about allowing same-sex couples to wed.
One strategy he plans to take is surveying the candidates’ position on same-sex marriage and publishing the results. He also expressed hope a forthcoming documentary about the fight for marriage equality in the country will also raise awareness of the issue.
Same-sex civil unions have been legal in the Czech Republic since 2006.
Outside the chamber on the streets of the Czech Republic, recent polls show overwhelming support for same-sex marriage and adoption rights in the East European country, but also show the opposition movement is growing.
A survey of more than 1,000 people over the age of 18 conducted by the Median agency in the Czech Republic published in 2020 showed 67% of people support same-sex marriage. When it comes to same-sex family rights, 78% supported second parent adoption and 62% supported same-sex adoption, reported Gay Star News.
The same survey also found opposition was quickly growing in the Czech Republic.
Comparing 2019 to 2018 survey results, people who were “definitely against” marriage equality was 15% compared to 10% a year earlier. Opposition to same-sex adoption also rose to 9% from 6% during the same period.
In January, the Czech Constitutional Court ruled against the Prague Regional Court’s proposal to the United States to amend the wording in international private law to ban same-sex partners who registered abroad from adopting Czech children. The U.S. courts rejected the proposal.
Same-sex couples currently cannot legally adopt in the Czech Republic; only married heterosexual couples can.