The Czech Republic took a significant step this week toward becoming the first post-Communist country to legalize same-sex unions.
The administration of recently elected Prime Minister Andrej Babiš signaled its intention on Friday to back legislation which would extend the full legal rights of marriage to same-sex couples in the European nation. The Czech Republic has allowed LGBTQ partners to enter into domestic unions since 2006.
Forty-six legislators have signed on to co-sponsor the same-sex marriage bill, which needs to earn a simple majority in the 200-seat Czech Parliament before it can become law.
Opponents pledged to push their own bill preventing same-sex couples from tying the knot, with 37 legislators vowing to back the proposal. The legislation, though, faces a much steeper battle than the pro-LGBTQ option: Because the motion would amend the constitution to define marriage as solely between a man and a woman, the constitutional change must garner support from three-fifths of the legislature before passage.
Although marriage equality is already the law of the land in 16 European countries, each of those is in Western Europe. Not a single post-Soviet nation allows LGBTQ couples to wed. Former Communist countries like Belarus, Bulgaria, Georgia, and Ukraine have outlawed same-sex unions.
Meanwhile, Romania is currently considering its own constitutional marriage ban.
But the Czech Republic is unique in Eastern Europe for its moderate support of LGBTQ rights. Twelve years after first joining the European Union, the government moved to allow same-sex couples to adopt in 2016. After Petr Laně and his partner, John Rous, fought the prohibition on gay adoption, the pair were finally cleared to adopt a child last year—the first LGBTQ couple in the country to do so.
As the government further paves the way for equality for same-sex partners, polls show support for marriage equality is increasing.
While surveys cited by the advocacy group Human Rights Watch in 2017 showed that a slim majority of Czech citizens (52 percent) supported full marriage rights for LGBTQ couples, an April poll from the Prague Daily Monitor found that percentage increased considerably in a short period of time. Three-quarters of residents now say that all couples should be allowed to marry.
Just 19 percent of respondents in the three-month-old survey claimed they opposed same-sex marriages.
While some outlets reported that the Czech government’s declaration of support amounted to the passage of marriage equality, the bill must be debated by the full legislature before it can become the law of the land. Lawmakers have not stated when that discussion will take place.
If passed, the bill would also grant pension and guardianship rights to same-sex partners, while guaranteeing equal access to family care.
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