Czech MPs approve law on same-sex partnerships

Only a week after 27-year old Vladko Dobrovodsky collected the first prize, worth some 450,000 dollars, in the Czech Republic's first TV reality show, he was given another present by the country's lawmakers - when they approved a bill allowing for registered partnerships of same-sex couples. Vladko never hid the fact he is gay and in a serious relationship. If the bill becomes a law, Vladko and his boyfriend say they will enter into a registered partnership.

Vladko Dobrovodsky (right) with his friend, photo: CTKVladko Dobrovodsky (right) with his friend, photo: CTK Ten years after a bill on registered partnerships was first submitted to the lower house of the Czech Parliament, its seventh version was finally passed on to the Senate on Friday. Eighty-six MPs present voted for it and 54 rejected the bill. They did not vote strictly along party lines but according to their own conscience and that's what makes it difficult to predict whether the bill will make it through the upper house, too. The only party unanimous in its rejection were the Christian Democrats. Party leader Miroslav Kalousek.

"With all respect to homosexual relationships, I believe the law on family is a privilege. That privilege is granted to couples in return for reproduction and the upbringing of a new generation. In this case I see no reason for such a privilege."

A number of gay celebrities have welcomed Friday's vote. But is the gay community really satisfied with the bill, that's a question for Tereza Kodickova, the spokesperson of the Gay and Lesbian Initiative.

"Well, of course, we are happy that there is an act but we are not entirely happy about its contents. On the other hand, there was no chance of the lower house approving anything more. At the moment the act on registered partnership doesn't allow much. It caters for inheritance rights and it gives you the right to receive information in case your partner is ill. But other than that it's nothing much. But what can we do. This is the way it usually goes. This is the way it has been in other countries as well, that at first you approve something that is very week and then later you amend the legislation. And that's what we expect as well."

Now the bill goes on to the upper house, the Senate - do you think the senators will approve it?

"As for whether it's got any chances in the Senate, that's always unclear until the very last moment because it's always up to the personal opinions and moods of the individual member of parliament, so we never know until the very last moment."

What specifically is missing, in your opinion, in the bill?

"What we miss the most is probably the estate by entirety because that's what makes life difficult and also it doesn't provide for foreigners getting any easier access to work permits or residence permits and, of course, it doesn't allow the adoption of children, but that was to be expected."

The bill on registered partnerships must now go before the Senate and be signed by the President.