It was a long time coming, but on Saturday July 1st of 2006 gay and lesbian couples across the Czech Republic were finally free to tie the knot. Dozens of them seized on the opportunity to seal their relationship with a civic ceremony on the very first day that this was made possible, others called registry offices to inquire about a date for the wedding.
It was a bright and sunny day - ideal for a wedding - and as the very first gay couple Pepa and Karel -a cook and railway worker - prepared to tie the knot at an Ostrava registry office they found time to share the moment with reporters:
"I'm a bundle of nerves - see how my hands are shaking!"
"It's finally here - from now on it will no longer be him and me - it will be "us"."
After the ceremony at which Pepa and Karel want to be alone with their friends and relatives, they both beam with delight, mingle with the wedding party and talk about their honeymoon in Croatia.
"It was beautiful, it was truly beautiful."
"Fantastic feeling - we'll never forget this day."
Their mothers are of course shedding tears of joy:
"I've known about their relationship for a long time now and I am glad they have decided to make it permanent, that they will look after each other now"
It was also a big day for 55 year old Miloslav and 39 year old Pavel from Kladno. Pavel explained why they'd decided to tie the knot:
"Now when we are dealing with an institution or arranging something at the post office we can say we are married and it will make things much easier. Or, if God forbid, something were to happen to either of us, the other could go to the hospital and ask to be informed. I think that marriage is a step that will seal our relationship and put it on a more stable footing."
The same sex marriage law, gives gay and lesbian couples some of the advantages of a traditional marriage: inheritance rights, the right to be informed about the other's health and the right to raise children, although they cannot adopt them. It has taken seven years of lobbying to get this legislation approved and the Czech Republic is the first post-communist country to legalize gay marriage.
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