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Slow on the Uptake


A bill legalizing domestic partnerships was passed by the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament last week. The bill passed the Senate in January (Brno senator Jiří Zlatuška abstained). President Klaus, who officially opposes the bill and successfully vetoed an earlier attempt, claimed last December that the bill would "interfere too much in the lives of private residents." The current bill passed on 15 March with 101 votes for "ano" from the 177 members of Chamber who were present. The bill will take effect during June 2006.

I claim little authority in talking about Czech politics so, to mix metaphors, I'm speaking on thin ice here. Yet the bill itself is mixed. While opening up some legal doors - it gives couples access to medical records and inheritance rights - it bars anyone involved in a partnership from adopting children. Thus it was a step toward legal equality but nothing even approaching a "separate but equal" status. (And shouldn't the end goal be a straightforward "equal" status anyway?) The bill was also passed in part through the strengthening (and more than a little worrisome) political alliance between the Social Democrat and Communist parties. (The Christian Democrats roundly opposed the issue.) Thus "tinged" (by association with the communist party), the issue may be more easily opposed in future discussions on the grounds of political ideology arising from social history rather than on the basis of social or moral concerns. For example Kateřina Dostálová, a long-time supporter and co-author of the bill, abstained from the vote, citing the way Premier Paroubek and the social democrats made this a "flagship" issue and rallying point. Thus the event could be seen as a vote to garner popular support for their leadership rather than a vote on a social issue. (My goodness, the political scene here can be worlds apart from the U.S. at times!) The bill also comes after a scare about the state of the "Czech family." Such "political" baggage may plague the issue in the future if the balance of power in the government shifts away from the conservative and communist parties.

Is the Czech Republic a bit slow on the uptake here? Granted, this bill makes the CR the only Central European country to support domestic partnerships. Over sixty percent of Czechs are thought to support same-sex marriages. Yet given Czech society's supposed openness and the country's political reputation as a haven for human rights (yes, this is the sort of sentiment you encounter in the guidebooks for tourists, but nonetheless it holds a place in the post-Communist national imaginary even among some Czechs though not all), I am surprised the bill took so long to get this far. But then, you have to start somewhere, and despite its shortcomings this bill seems a step in the right direction.

Information and sources:
Insight Central Europe report (in English)
Czech Radio story (in Czech) (and in English)
Registrované partnerství updates from STUD Brno (in Czech)

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Comments:

Blogger Karla said . . .

Glad you got this one, since I just skimmed the reports and meant to get back to it, and you know the Czech politics better.    

9:53 PM, March 23, 2006


Blogger Karla said . . .

Oh, and it would be nice if it were as easy to research First Republic attitudes and practices as to follow STUD Brno's media links! But if it were that easy, would it excite my dissertation committee as much?    

9:58 PM, March 23, 2006


Blogger morskyjezek said . . .

Well, there's something to be said for accessibility. The nature of dissertations, though, does seem to encourage one to find a topic that is rather difficult to find information about. :) As we know all too well...    

11:08 PM, March 23, 2006


Blogger Karla said . . .

I found the 1930s journal Nový hlas is at the Narodní knihovna after all (just not in the online catalog, apparently) so tomorrow I hope to be enlightened on interwar sexual minorities.    

7:25 PM, March 24, 2006


Blogger morskyjezek said . . .

Czech Radio reports in their 25 March "Magazine" that opponents of the law have already criticized a loophole. "The law does not specifically state it is illegal to enter into more than one partnership simultaneously." Oops. Some suspect the law will have to be amended in the near future.    

1:16 PM, March 25, 2006


Blogger Karla said . . .

And what's wrong with simultaneous partnership among consenting adults, I feel obliged to inquire. If they can make it work, good for them.    

8:05 PM, March 29, 2006


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