Czech MPs prepare for heated debate on same-sex marriage

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Six months before the autumn parliamentary elections, deputies embark on debating a matter they have avoided for three years, the legalization of same-sex marriages, which they last discussed in 2018. The counter-proposal, which would constitutionally protect traditional marriages, is on the table.

The Chamber of Deputies is divided on this issue, while some critics also point out that the debate is currently unnecessary because the country has to deal with the coronavirus crisis.

The debate on this change of law was started after the elections to the Chamber of Deputies in 2017 by the then MP for the ANO movement, Radka Maxová. Together with another 45 deputies, she proposed an amendment to the Civil Code so that gay people could enter into marriage. According to the explanatory memorandum, same-sex couples and their children are to enjoy “the dignity and the same protection of family life as is provided by law to spouses and their children, thus ensuring equal status not only in society but also in law”.

The draft was signed by deputies from the clubs of ANO movement, Social Democrats, Pirates, TOP 09, STAN movement, and Communist Party. In contrast, the initiative of 37 deputies from Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL), ANO, Civic Democratic Party (ODS), Social Democrats (ČSSD), TOP 09, and STAN movement proposes the constitutional protection of traditional marriage. The House was divided at that moment in the past, and three discussions of these points had already led to long quarrels and insults.

During the last discussion in 2018, for example, MP Monika Jarošová stated that she did not understand the attempt to legalize homosexual unions.

“Kindergarten is also not intended for pensioners and the football field is not for hockey players. I don’t understand how someone doesn’t understand these simple things,” Jarošová said, adding that the change could lead to the legalization of pedophilia or zoophilia.

Former Minister of Defense and Regional Development Karla Šlechtová spoke out against her.

“Given that the LGBT community was compared to pedophiles and zoophiles, I would like to ask the Honorable Member to abandon such words in the Chamber of Deputies. Firstly, you have offended a lot of people in this country, but you have also offended me because I belong to that community,” said Šlechtová.

One of the submitters of the anchoring of marriage as a union of a man and a woman, Marek Výborný, hopes that similar outbursts will not occur.

“This thing deserves sophistication, objectivity, and also respect for colleagues with the opposite opinion. I don’t want it to be sharpened or combative,” said Výborný to Czech news portal Echo24.

According to him, however, it is strange that an extraordinary meeting of the Chamber of Deputies must be convened at the time of coronavirus.

“We have far more important concerns, such as getting children to school. It would be beneficial for us to discuss this point in peace and not right now,” said Výborný.

Extreme tactics of lobbyists for marriage for all

In addition to quarrels and insults during the negotiations, the deputies are also the target of the attacks from the interest groups. In particular, the organization We Are Fair, according to some politicians, is bombarding individual legislators with reports and messages.

There are also several tables on social networks where deputies are divided by clubs and marked with colors, whether they are for gay marriage or not. Some then have notes on their names as to whether or not they are “publicly homophobic.”

Aleš Juchelka, a member of the ANO movement, is one example. The lawmaker rejects such framing.

“It is not at all true that I am homophobic. I just signed the constitutional change to marriage as a union of a man and a woman. Activists are using extreme measures to fight for the adoption of marriage for all and will provide this label to anyone who does not agree with them,” Juchelka told Echo24.

According to a member of the ANO movement, the whole debate is set up in a very extreme manner where every opponent is labeled a homophobe.

“I will always oppose any oppression of minorities, but this is about children’s rights and what I think every child needs — that is, his or her parents, as a male and female role model,“ added Juchelka.

Even the deputy and former chairman of the Christian Democrats, Marek Výborný, experienced pressure from various organizations that want to promote marriage for all.

“Lobbying is also with the Building Act or the amendment to the Execution Rules. On the other hand, I get a lot of messages that support us for opposing relativization. That is, to supplement the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms with the fact that not only the family and parenthood but also marriage as a union of a man and a woman are worth protecting by the law,” added Výborný.

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