Gay rights gaining momentum in Slovakia

Since splitting into two separate nations in 1993, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have travelled at different speeds in relation to gay equality laws.

The Czech Republic passed a civil union bill in 2006, while the Slovak Parliament is yet to pass same-sex relationship recognition.

Košice-raised Vlad, 39, and Topoany-raised Juraj, 31, have their views on why Slovakia requires more time to debate the issues than their neighbour.

I think the reason is because the Czech Republic has Prague, and all its tourism. People become accustomed to homosexuality when they see it, especially when gay tourists visit the city, Juraj said.

Our capital, Bratislava is smaller and not as well-known as Prague. It doesn’t have the same amount of tourism.

Vlad puts the reason down to religion. There is too much religion involved in the debate, because we have many Christian politicians. The Czechs are much more relaxed in terms of the religion, he said.

The year the Czech Republic passed civil unions was also a significant year for Slovak politics. In 2006 the Christian-dominated party under Mikuláš Dzurinda’s leadership was swept aside in favour of a left-dominated coalition headed by Robert Fico.

Under the Dzurinda administratration, justice minister Jan Carnogursky remarked that homosexuals needed medical treatment and same-sex relationship recognition degrades the family.

Futhermore, when Slovakia joined the European Union in 2004 foreign affairs minister Eduard Kukan said Slovakia would not recognise gay marriages conducted in other EU states. Slovakia has taken this measure unilaterally, which means we will have different laws in this area from the rest of the EU, he said.

The previous Government followed EU directives in relation to anti-discrimination legislation, which came into force in July 2004.

Fico’s new Government extended these anti-discrimination laws in February 2008 by prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation for social care, medical treatment and education.

While generally being more sympathetic to gay rights, the current Government hasn’t turned its attention to gay marriage. Juraj and Vlad believe the reason lies with the Government having more pressing issues to deal with.

There are other priorities right now. The Government must deal with the credit crisis, Vlad said.

We’ve also just [adopted] the euro currency. The economy is the biggest concern. Once it’s all sorted out, we will have our social reforms. We will get the same-sex relationship laws sooner rather than later, Juraj added.

There are gay organisations fighting for equality right now in Slovakia. These groups are doing a really good job with petitions and providing information. The Government simply has to review the documents and present them to the National Council.

Vlad, who runs a pre-press printing business, arrived in Sydney in 1999.

I feel free in Sydney. In my country there is a small community syndrome, people care what the neighbours say, he said.

Juraj has been in Australia for 11 years.

I really love it here, the climate. Nobody really has anything against homosexuality in Slovakia but there is a perception that people will care so you don’t, for example, hold hands in public. But if you do, nothing happens.

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