In March of 2006 Czech homosexuals celebrated an important victory. After seven years of intensive lobbying the Czech Parliament finally passed a law on same-sex partnerships or so called gay-marriages, overriding president Klaus’s veto by a narrow majority. A year and a half later the number of registered partnerships between same-sex couples in the Czech Republic has reached nearly five hundred. Ruth Fraňková spoke to Slavomír Goga from the Gay and Lesbian League and started by asking whether the new law had made a significant difference to the life of the gay and lesbian community.
“Definitely. The law had enormous significance for the whole gay and lesbian community in the Czech Republic not only from the symbolic point of view, in terms of giving us equal rights, but also from a practical point of view, because many couples decided to tie the knot and use the legal benefits of this institution in everyday life.”
Does it mean that registered homosexual couples enjoy the same rights as heterosexual couples?
“Unfortunately it’s not really like that but it is very similar to the development in most other Western European countries. The current volume of rights and duties that the law gives homosexual couples is about 30 percent of what marriage gives heterosexual couples. So it is not what most gays and lesbians in the Czech Republic would like, given the choice, but it is a good start and it all depends on whether we manage to broaden the law in future and how long it will take that.”
Could you be more specific? In what areas for example are you discriminated?
“Well the first thing that comes to my mind is joint ownership of property. Generally these property issues have been excluded mainly because we were afraid that this would be against the law and it wouldn’t be passed.”
What about inheritance and gift tax?
“That’s true; that is an issue as well. But this stems from the strategy that we used when we tried to push the bill through parliament. Basically we were afraid that opponents of the bill would say that people want to avoid paying taxes to use the financial aspects of the partnership and not the symbolic value which of course for us was one of the main reasons why we wanted to push the bill through.”
So basically you would gradually like to push more changes through…
“That’s right. The previous bills that were rejected by Parliament wanted to have something that was almost equal to marriage and none of them was passed because the deputies considered this to be too much. Most of the conservative deputies, if they were not completely against, they said they didn’t mind if there was some kind of partnership but they didn’t want it to look like marriage. So we had to downsize the catalogue of rights which we wanted to push through. But we definitely did it with the prospect that the society will slowly change its attitude towards same-sex couples and that the law will be gradually changed and broadened.”