The bill will now be assessed by the lower house's Constitutional and Law Committee and the Committee for the Family. Photo credit: Freepik.

Same-Sex Marriage Bill Passes First Reading in Chamber of Deputies

The Czech Chamber of Deputies approved an amendment to the Civil Code legalising marriage for same-sex couples at its first reading yesterday, as the draft amendment survived opponents’ proposals to reject it and return it to the drafters for reworking.

The bill will now be assessed by the lower house’s Constitutional and Law Committee and the Committee for the Family. They will have four months to do so, instead of the usual two.

MPs began debating the possibility of same-sex marriage in the opening round in late May, and came to the first reading vote yesterday. The debate lasted more than seven hours.

Apart from the proposed amendment to the Civil Code, the lower house also dealt with a proposal by another group of lawmakers which would amend the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, a part of the Czech constitution, to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. This also passed its first reading.

Of the 141 MPs present, 58 voted in favor of rejecting the same-sex marriage proposal, while 68 voted against. 60 of the 139 MPs present voted to reject the constitutional amendment, while 64 voted against. Both will therefore advance to a second reading.

Under the amendment to the Civil Code, same-sex couples would have the same rights in marriage as opposite-sex couples have now. These include the creation of joint property, entitlement to widow’s and widower’s pensions, rights and obligations to the children they raise, and access to substitute family care. Registered partnerships, which are currently available to same-sex couples, would be replaced and become obsolete.

Parliamentary parties usually give their MPs a free vote on issues of this kind.

The only group of deputies whose members all voted to reject the same-sex marriage proposal were the far-right opposition party Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD). The parliamentary groups of Mayors and Independents (STAN), Pirates and TOP 09 were unanimously in favour.

As for the constitutional definition of marriage, its rejection was supported by all MPs from the Pirates, STAN and TOP 09. Some MPs who oppose this measure nonetheless voted to discuss the bill further. According to the ODS parliamentary group head Marek Benda, it was necessary for the lower house to allow further discussion of both amendments in order to break the sharp disputes over the meaning of marriage.

KDU-CSL group leader Ales Dufek said that the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman was legally established in ancient times. “This quite extraordinary tradition of the legal institution of marriage ensures that the perception and definition of the concept of marriage as a permanent union of one woman and one man is, despite some tendencies of the last few years, deeply socially and legally tested and rooted,” he argued.

Lower house Speaker Marketa Pekarova Adamova (TOP 09) spoke yesterday morning about a possible agreement on a compromise, involving parental rights and use of the term ‘marriage’, which is one of the main points of criticism from opponents of same-sex marriage.

“We, as promoters, are ready to discuss those individual parameters,” said Pekarova Adamova. “We do not insist that a compromise option cannot be agreed upon. It can relate to parental rights as well as the name.” 

KDU-CSL yesterday afternoon announced the tabling of another amendment that would extend the rights of same-sex couples in the Registered Partnership Law, which it would rename civil partnerships. KDU-CSL MP Nina Novakova said this proposal “fully meets all the legitimate needs of homosexual couples.” However, Jan Berki (STAN), who is gay, replied that “if you insist on changing the law on registered partnerships, you are still singling me out for a separate law.”

Same-Sex Marriage Bill Passes First Reading in Chamber of Deputies
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