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Czech law on same-sex marriage ends in tatters

60 percent. Czech society supports same-sex marriage. But the conservative right has a majority in parliament and a majority in the opposition, so it worked out as usual in the Czech parliament: equality turned out to be an evil to be fought on every front.
Krytyka Polityczna

The Czech Parliament’s Chamber of Deputies’ vote on the law on same-sex marriage ended in disappointment. It’s hardly surprising, given that the current ruling coalition has long been trying to turn a country that was once the bulwark of liberalism into a hellhole of conservatism.

Failure was to be expected if only because MPs and deputies tried to outdo each other in successive proposals for “compromise” – based apparently on the unanimous opinion that the compromise between equality and inequality is inequality. The perpetuation of the division between marriage and civil unions was thus guaranteed in advance.

Our representatives constantly remind us that there is only one mode of institutionalizing unions (no substitutes!). And if someone has not made an effort to be born the way they need to be, they should be punished by having their rights restricted. In this way, the scourge of diversity will be contained, will not taint our beautiful, heteronormative society, and, above all, will not violate our carefully cherished privileges, which absolutely must not be shared with inferior individuals.

Think of the children

Idiotic ideology aside, the main focus of the dispute was the dutiful hostage of any meaningful political argument: children. It would seem that in the midst of incomprehensible outcries about the erosion of “traditional values” (this erosion is proceeding far too slowly!), someone could at least tip off the years of scientific research from which we know that the sexual orientation of parents does not affect the quality of children’s upbringing. Where there – our representatives assumed that only hetero couples can love their offspring properly.

The so-called compromise options differed mainly in how much freedom they generously granted to minorities when it came to adoption. The results again disappointed expectations. In a same-sex relationship, you will only be able to adopt… your own biological children. However, this is a novelty – and whether it counts as a victory will depend on one’s ability to navigate the treacherous waters of surrogacy. It is easy to guess that this phenomenon is completely ignored by Czech law for the time being.

Little progress has also been made on the issue of inheritance, widow’s pensions and so on – matters that are taken for granted in marriage. It’s a small thing, a crumb thrown to the people whose inferiority the rulers have confirmed. It’s hard to kiss them on one hand for that when they slap them with the other.

Lobbyists attack

Searching for the cause of the fiasco, one ends up with the same suspects as always: ideology and politicking. The ideological trail is easy to follow, as the current coalition is rife with conservative lobbyists of the worst sort.

Back in January, the Czech Senate refused to ratify the Istanbul Convention, a European treaty to combat violence against women. Apparently, Czechs love beating and raping women so much that they don’t want to give it up. Sentences for sexual violence will thus remain ludicrously low, and victims will receive no support. By the way, conservatives have spectacularly shown off their ignorance of even the most basic concepts. The same ignorance, and often even the same so-called “arguments,” have surfaced in discussions about whether these awful “non-heterosexuals” should be allowed to raise children for their “unholy purposes.”

Various interest groups are involved in the debate. Above all, old acquaintances such as the Aliance pro rodinu alliance (one of its leaders assists – surprise – a ruling party deputy) and the Tradiční rodina organization (a mass producer of leaflets with pictures of smiling children and threats that legalizing same-sex marriage will lead to the annihilation of society). There was no shortage of fresh blood either – for example, the List 77. initiative, led by a “simple carpenter from the village” who does not even try to pretend that he is not an Aliance pro rodin stooge and has suspiciously easy access to high-ranking politicians. The idea, of course, was to create the impression of grassroots hatred of minorities.

Meanwhile, it is not grassroots at all. Surveys show that about 60 percent. Czech society supports same-sex marriage. And yet, for some reason, we keep choosing the same lineup of conservative, discriminatory, bloat-suffering dinosaurs. This brings us to the political side of the issue.

Unholy covenant

The composition of the current coalition is very different from the one that originally brought the issue of same-sex marriage to parliament. The ruling parties form a shapeless lump under the name SPOLU (“TOGETHER”). They agree on economic policy (the two main points of the program are “do good to the rich” and “fuck the poor”), but are scattered and inconsistent (even within the same party) on issues as trivial as social values, human rights or – God forbid! – ethics.

This means that while a few MPs and deputies from parties such as the Pirates, TOP09 and STAN could try to do politics, if not progressive, then at least liberal, they are outnumbered by the backward faction of the most powerful coalition partner ODS (Civic Democratic Party), almost all of the Christian Democratic Party (this is obvious, though still disappointing, as there are small Christian initiatives supporting same-sex marriage) and opportunists who don’t care about anything.

The equality-impaired part of the ODS and the Christian Democrats played it smart. They put to a vote a whole repertoire of compromises (i.e., various degrees of discrimination), thus throwing the coalition a smooth bone of contention and hoping to disperse votes to more liberal options. But even this would not have worked without the complicity of the opposition.

The problem with the results of the recent elections is that when the dust settled, we saw a parliament without a single feature to salvage its honor. The coalition was formed by the conservative right, and the opposition… well, also by the conservative right. It comes in two flavors: the fascist, racist bunch SPD (Freedom and Direct Democracy, incidentally run as a total autocracy by an immigrant-hating immigrant) and the previous ruling party, ANO. Thanks to the latter, the phenomenon of populism has settled in the Czech Republic, understood as the acceptance of any idea, as long as it (a) it does not conflict with the plan of its leader, billionaire Andrej Babiš, to turn the state apparatus into a subsidiary of his company, and (b) has support in the polls.

Populist flicks

Under ANO’s leadership, the first bill on same-sex marriage was introduced into parliament – which is why it has reached the current stage in the legislative process. This is not so surprising, given that Czech public opinion is not even half as bothered by marriage equality as the howlers squawking about “gender ideology” would like.

However, ANO underwent a strategic shift in preparation for the elections, which it ultimately lost anyway. After its complete failure to manage the state during the pandemic, the party had to shift from imagined successes to the culture war to try to take votes away from anti-establishment parties. To this end, it has mimicked the strategy and rhetoric of another popular Central European leader: Viktor Orbán. Let’s stop for a moment, let’s let it arrive.

And, of course, the conservative representatives of the coalition succeeded in making it so that the ANO votes decided the fate of same-sex marriage. All voted for the most restrictive option. ANO’s current campaign goal is to become known as the most anti-establishment party (anti-Western, anti-EU, anti-internationalist, anti-moral corruption – terms used interchangeably), while doing nothing to harm the Czech Republic’s position in the EU (since Babiš is also concerned with maximizing profits from EU-subsidized agriculture). In short, we have witnessed the opposition working in tandem with the least desirable elements of the coalition. And if current polls say anything about the future of the Czech Parliament, it hasn’t happened the last time.

One more fact must be mentioned: whether we consider the sad fate of the same-sex marriage law a victory or a defeat, the story does not end there. The proposal in its current form still has to go through the Senate – the same Senate that decided that violence against women completely does not bother Czechs, and made its decision based on its own ignorance and false information. So there is a non-zero chance that even a small concession to non-heterosexuals will be dismissed as a sign of rampant liberalism. Because equality is apparently an evil that must be fought on every front.

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Translated from English by Aleksandra Paszkowska.

Michal Chmela

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