Explainer: Tomorrow’s Parliamentary Vote On Same-Sex Marriage Bill

The Czech Republic is among the European countries with a relatively more conservative policy towards LGBTQI+ rights. Special report by Tomáš Herzán. Photo credit: Freepik.

Brno, June 28 (BD) – Tomorrow, 29 June, the Chamber of Deputies will vote on a bill to legalise same-sex marriage in the Czech Republic. The vote was preceded by a lengthy debate in the political sphere, between lawmakers who lean towards the liberal west or the conservative east when it comes to LGBTQI+ issues. This article explores what the same-sex marriage bill is about, which political parties would support or oppose it, and what are its chances of passing.

High public support, conservative policy

The Czech Republic is among the European countries with a relatively more conservative policy towards LGBTQI+ rights. In 2006, it adopted a law on registered partnerships, which allows same-sex couples to enter into a form of an union, but does not guarantee the same rights as marriage. Some of the biggest differences include not being entitled to establish joint property, and the issue of children; a couple in a civil partnership cannot adopt together, and if one partner already has a child, the other partner has no legal right to adopt the child, even if they share a household.

However, since 2006, the Czech Republic has not made any significant progress in improving the rights of the LGBTQI+ community. A same-sex marriage bill was introduced to the Czech Parliament in 2018 and made it to the second reading in 2021, but failed due to the end of the parliamentary term. Therefore, it was reintroduced in 2022, along with a counter-proposal to enshrine marriage in the constitution as the union of a man and a woman. 29 June could therefore be a historic day for the Czech LGBTQI+ community, which could see the Czech Republic join the 14 EU member states which have already legalised same-sex marriage, starting with the Netherlands in 2001.

According to ILGA-Europe’s Rainbow Index 2023, which evaluates the situation of LGBTQI+ communities in European countries over the prior year, the Czech public is rather open to the adoption of the law, with as many as 165,000 people signing a petition to approve it in 2022.

The organisation Jsme fér, the most active and well-known organisation promoting marriage equality, was invited by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to discuss family policy. The organisation states on its website that in 2020, according to polling by Median, public support for same-sex marriage was at 67%. Several high profile politicians are also supportive, including President Petr Pavel.

Who Is For And Against?

Opinions vary widely in the lower house of the Czech Parliament, and the vote itself will be a free vote, based on the deputies’ personal beliefs. Aktuálně.cz asked the deputies directly about their stance on the issue. A large majority did not express an opinion, with the highest percentage of those coming from the largest opposition party, ANO. Of those who did respond, at least 48 were in favour and 30 against. 

In addition to the direct questioning, Aktuálně.cz also analysed previous statements of all 200 deputies to predict how each would vote. This revealed that about 100 deputies would vote against the bill, while 53 would vote in favour; the opinion of the remaining 47 deputies remains unclear, and is therefore crucial for the result. According to the survey, the strongest support for same-sex marriage comes from STAN, from which 27 deputies out of 33 would be in favour, the Pirates (4 seats) and the majority of TOP 09 (14 seats). 

On the contrary, opposition to the bill comes mainly from KDU-ČSL, all of whose 23 deputies would be against it, the SPD (20 seats) and the majority of ODS’s 34 deputies, 20 of whom have expressed their opposition to same-sex marriage in the past. The biggest question mark, and therefore key to the vote, will be the 71 deputies of the ANO party, whose opinions are thought to vary widely. However, only a minority of these have declared their support in the past, so not much surprise is expected.

A possible alternative could be an amendment from the KDU-ČSL group, which would increase the rights of the LGBTQI+ community, but include restrictions on the adoption of children, and define registered same-sex partnerships as “unions”, not marriage. This conservative proposal could be successful with the support of wavering conservative-minded deputies, especially from ANO and ODS.

The likely outcome?

Although same-sex marriage has quite high support from the public, the political sphere leans rather more conservative, so the chances of the bill passing do not seem high. However, the main arguments of the opposing groups do not seem to be opposition to equal rights as such, but rather to referring to such unions as marriage, so the debate is ultimately as much semantic as substantive, possibly allowing for compromise measures in the future.

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