Czech News Agency announced this afternoon about the newly established cooperation of five organizations (Amnesty International, Logos CR, Mezipatra, Prague Pride, and Platform for Equality, Recognition and Diversity – PROUD) who decided to launch a campaign for the equalization of the marriage institution in the Czech Republic both to couples of different as well as the same sex. The campaign will be named “We’re Fair” and the site of the same name will be launched on Wednesday, 18 April.
Perhaps you have thought that a registered partnership is just called a marriage-like institute, look at some key differences:
- Husband and wife
- Engaged couple can get married at almost any birth register
- Two witnesses
- The statement shall be made before the mayor, deputy mayor or authorized representative of the council
- By marriage, married relatives are legally recognized by the law
- Working off 2 days for the purposes of the wedding
- The common property of the spouses is automatically generated. Its existence makes the life of husbands, who do not have to give power for every circumstance. It also means that a spouse may have a larger share in the heir than a registered partner. Furthermore, the common property is more advantageous in terms of taxes
- When married, married couples can determine what common surnames they will use
- After the husband’s death, the spouse is entitled to various benefits (retirement, sickness leave etc.)
- Children are entitled to an orphaned pension after their parents
- A husband/wife can acquire a child of another husband/wife (for example from a previous relationship)
- They can collectively adopt a child from the institutional care
- They can be joint fosters
- The condition of divorce is the regulation of relationships with children
- Registered partners
- Registered partners only have 14 regional offices
- Without witnesses Only before the registrar
- The law of, for example, brothers-in-law or sisters-in-law of the registered partners do not recognize those of registered partners
- No entitlement to leave by law Shared equity does not arise, the partners are only co-owners with shares.
- There is no settlement of property in the event of a breakdown of the relationship
- Can not, they have to request it after the registration
- They are not entitled to a widow’s pension, etc.
- Children do not have this claim in relation to a partner who is not a biological parent
- The adoption law does not recognize the registered partners
- They can not co-adopt a child from the institutional care
- They can not be foster parents
- Is not regulated.
- A partner who is not a biological parent does not automatically have the opportunity to see children
In this paper, however, I want to focus primarily on the importance and status of the natural development of social and legal attitudes towards non-heterosexuals in the Czech Republic. Historians Jan Seidl and Franz Schindler remind us, for example, in their books that the First Czechoslovak Republic, together with Germany and Switzerland, were among the first countries to provide space for a professional, political and social discussion of the legal status of homosexuality. In the midst of the rise of Nazism in Germany and the outbreak of World War II, Czechoslovakia was the only bastion of a liberal debate which ceased due to the Communists’ entry into power in 1948. However, even the Communist regime did not fully stop the development. An example of this is the professional discussion of “the healing of homosexuality” during this period, which took place within the Czech medical sexology having the world’s oldest tradition, which in the aftermath of the controversial but not isolated therapeutic experiments of doc. Kurt Freund, had come to the irrefutable conclusion that homosexuality can not be cured or altered and therefore should not be punished. The Communist regime in Czechoslovakia has thus decriminalized homosexuality already in 1961. At that time, there had been little change until the end of the 1980s, when the social taboo of homosexuality was broken by the news of the spread of HIV, which affects the population of non-heterosexual men more than the heterosexual population. After the Velvet Revolution, various associations and activist groups, whose natural desire to achieve the quickest equalization, were already relatively quickly formed. Although a number of changes were achieved relatively quickly through the efforts of the first wave of post-revolutionary activists, the situation in the field of legal equality of non-heterosexuals had gradually become undermined by the precarious transformational political climate, typical of its immaturity and lack of political culture, in the wake of which efforts to advance the rights of sexual minorities rather stagnated and collided with the typical post-revolutionary, still persistent lack of political interest in the rights of non-heterosexuals, which they consistently regard as “marginal affairs”.
Let us now look abroad where there have also been very progressive changes over the last 20 years, which can be approached in the context of a naturally evolving situation, for example, by the following steps (order of the higher phases, was often different or skipped) by the Dutch professor of comparative law Kees Waaldijk, specializing in the right of sexual minorities, called the “order of the small changes”:
- First homosexuality was de-criminalized (in 1961) (for example, in the United Kingdom only in 1967)
- It was later removed from the list of diseases and therefore de-medicated (1993)
- The legal age for sexual intercourse between persons of the same sex was equalized (in our country in 1990, at age 15)
- Anti-discrimination legislation was introduced, ie “sexual orientation” has been added to other existing categories such as gender, ethnicity or religion, on the basis of which we must not discriminate (in our country from 1999 and then as the last EU member in 2009, Hate crimes)
- A registered partnership or otherwise legally named alliance with a second-rank position, legally unequal to marriage (in 2006 after 16 years since the first presentation in 1990) was enacted.
- Marriage equalization, and at the same time, the right to enter into the adoption process as a married couple (in our country ?. ?. ????)
In spite of the popular belief that there is a need to “wait for” social support for the relevant legal or populist arguments, or that “gay rights” can interfere with proclaimed “traditional values” as a “family”, it can be said, based on available research, that enforcing equalizing legislation has a contrary positive effect in form of a step-up increase in the social acceptance of sexual minorities. In other words, following the enforcement of “controversial laws”, often follows the effect of increased social acceptance, which responds to the finding that the law “has not hurt anyone, but has helped many.” Judith Takács and Ivett Szalma from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 2011 published a key research analyzing social attitudes toward homosexuals in 26 European countries and were finding out whether the legalization of homosexual partnership legislation had changed these attitudes. The results from their study, maybe surprisingly, show that there has been a significant increase in social support in countries where the relevant legislation has been introduced, compared with countries where there has been no change and where attitudes towards homosexuals have stagnated.
Thus, in many countries, social attitudes towards homosexuality are maintained at a low level, primarily due to the persistent lack of interest of politicians or, on the contrary, the high activity of conservative groups. However, if we know that public opinion and social support reflects and responds to political support, we must necessarily register that in cases where the government “turns to the people”, for example, in a referendum, it essentially escapes the possible political loss of votes at the cost of possible conservative attitudes. We also know from research in the field of psychology, social epidemiology and social psychiatry that these legislative changes lead to important changes in the field of social stigmatization, which is an important structural factor that affects the mental health of non-heterosexual people. It is therefore self-evident that the issue of sexual equality falls not only within the political or activist debates, but also in the issue of public health, because social stigmatization in a complicated, but today already measurable ways, indirectly inscribes into the health of non-heterosexuals. A unique research based on the US-wide multi-year track of the situation published this year in the prestigious journal JAMA Pediatrics has pointed out that legalizing marriage has had a crucial side effect that should, in itself, be a cause for interest in changing the situation. The authors of the report have demonstrated that in those states where the legislation of marriage equality has been enforced in previous years has resulted in a 28.5% reduction in the suicide rate of LGBT adolescents. Whereas, the suicide rate in the LGBT adolescents is several times higher compared to the rates of heterosexual adolescents.
In Europe, marriage, as a institute, is already equalized for homosexual couples in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and most recently in Slovenia, which this year became the first post-communist country to adopt this legislation. On the following map, it is clear that, apart from the states that have equalized the marriage (dark blue) and the states where a “second-class” registered partnership type (light blue) currently applies, there are also states in Europe where local legislators and conservative groups, on contrast to the other states, legally anchored the constitutional ban of the equality of marriages and reserved this institute only for couples of different sexes. One of the last countries in which such a constitutional change occurred was, for example, Slovakia, where it was submitted by the Christian Democratic Movement in 2014. Following the implementation of this constitutional change with the support of Robert Fico, Slovakia also announced a referendum in the context of a controversial campaign, which constitutionality was requested to be inspected by Andrej Kiska, the President of the Slovakia himself. After a quick decision by the Constitutional Court, the referendum, which received support from, for example, the Conference of Bishops of Slovakia or individual ecclesiastical organizations, was announced on February 7, 2015. However, its result was invalid for minimum attendance.
Similar constitutional changes that make equalization of marriage impossible were achieved also by conservative groups, ecclesiastical or other organizations, inter alia, in 2013 Croatia (referendum) and similarly in 2012 to Viktor Orbán and his FIDESZ in Hungary. As can be seen, within these and other states of Central and Eastern Europe (red), marriage s explicitly closed to the same-sex couples, and this is mainly because the constitutions of these states defined marriage as an institute between man and woman. It should be remembered that Russia has experienced a worsening of the situation in recent years and the current political situation in its autonomous republic of Chechnya, for the recent opening of homosexual concentration camps suggests that progress in the field of non-heterosexual rights is not at all obvious process, but a topical chapter of the world’s history.
In the end, however, I remain positive because we should not forget that the support for marriage for same-sex couples is already considerable in the Czech Republic (67% according to the Medium of Homosexuals Survey for Mladá fronta Dnes 2016, N = 1042) and the currently launched campaign We are fair will likely not collide with the opposition of public, but rather with the lack of political interest to address the situation in the field of non-heterosexual rights.
RNDr. Michal Pitoňák, Ph.D.