If it was up to the thousands who participated in last week’s Prague Pride, it’s clear the Czech Republic would be joining the growing list of countries legalizing same-sex marriage.
Marriage equality was a major theme during Prague Pride Week, which prominently featured a lesbian couple in wedding dresses riding in a carriage in the parade. While there was no doubt where the estimated 35,000 participants in the parade stood on the issue, public opinion still remains split with a May Czech opinion poll showing a slight majority of 52 percent in favour of same-sex marriage.
After years of effort, the door may be opening for activists to achieve marriage equality. On October 20 and 21, national parliamentary elections will be held in the Czech Republic and same-sex marriage is on the agenda.
After joining the European Union (EU) in 2004, the Czech Republic introduced civil unions in 2006. In the run-up to the October elections, a coalition of five Czech non-governmental organizations started a campaign called Jsme fér! (We are fair) to achieve marriage equality during the next four year parliamentary period. The chair of the campaign and the advocacy director joined me in my meetings with Czech politicians to discuss marriage equality. On Thursday, August 10, we met in the Czech parliament building with Zbynek Stanjura, chairman of the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), which is a conservative opposition party. Inspired by the sudden adoption of marriage equality legislation in Germany through a vote of conscience, Stanjura, who is personally not in favour of marriage equality, suggested that his party could agree on a free vote in parliament – that is without any party whip. He predicted several of his colleagues would vote in favour of marriage equality. The next day we met with the former Prime Minister and former EU Commissioner Vladimir Spidla, who is now the chief advisor of the current Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. He predicted his party, the Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD), currently the biggest political party in government with two coalition partners, would be in favour of marriage equality.
The Equal Marriage campaigners will now ask all 200 candidates for the Chamber of Deputies if they would vote in favour of marriage equality should they be elected. The campaigners will urge the public to support those candidates who commit to marriage equality. Now is the time to vote for full equality.