Homosexuals should get themselves into treatment, according to Justice Minister Ján Čarnogurský, and should not expect to see a law passed legalising homosexual marriages at least for the duration of the current minister's term.
Speaking at a press conference August 17, Čarnogurský, chairman of the government coalition Christian Democrats party, said that giving homosexual relationships similar status to those enjoyed by men and women in heterosexual marriages "degrades the family."
A draft law that would give homosexuals in long-term relationships the status of "registered partners" has been ready since 1997, but was not approved by the cabinet of then Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar, or the current government of Mikuláš Dzurinda. The law would allow homosexual partners, among other things, to refuse to testify in court against their mate, to take three days off work in the event of their partner's death, and to deed property to each other without taxation.
But the Christian Democrats, triumphant after the approval of a treaty between Slovakia and the Vatican last week, maintained that the recent treaty pledged each side to protect monogamous heterosexual marriages as "the basis of a healthy society". His tough stance against homosexuals, said Čarnogurský, should be understood as "fulfilling the terms of the Vatican treaty".
The Christian Democrats even produced a medical expert at the press conference - psychiatrist and Christian Democrat MP Alojz Rakús - to reinforce their claim that homosexuality was a disease.
"In the past, when homosexuals were still being sent for treatment, I succeeded in curing two of five such patients - male homosexuals. The therapy was so successful that these homosexual individuals, who were living full-blown homosexual lifestyles, in the end formed heterosexual marriages and had children.
"I know for sure that one of these marriages is still healthy because he [the former patient] regularly sends me greetings," said Rakús, adding that psychotherapy was successful in 'curing' on average 52% of homosexual patients.
The Christian Democrat statements drew both anger and ridicule from other psychiatrists and civil groups such as the Difference Initiative (Iniciatíva Inakosť). Ludvik Nábělek, head of psychiatry at Roosevelt Hospital in Banská Bystrica, Slovakia's largest medical institution, said that "homosexuality is a [genetic] condition, not a disease. Just as not even being stretched on the rack can make us grow if we are genetically small, the same is true of treatment for homosexuals, which usually causes only trauma to the patient".
Marián Vojtek of the Difference Initiative was equally dismissive of Čarnogurský's position. "Homosexuality in Slovakia is a hot potato that each person who catches it quickly passes it on to another so he doesn't have to deal with it," he said. Far from endangering the family unit or the institution of marriage, Vojtek added, homosexual partnerships "are a question of the decision of two people to take a common and lawful path through life."
The Difference Initiative was formed this past spring to promote a free society in which people do not suffer discrimination for their sexual orientation, religious faith, life goals or ethnic or racial background. The group's Jozef Greč said: "Every post-communist society has a huge problem accepting sexual, racial or ethnic differences."
German lesbian activist Ira Kormannshaus, who is active in Slovakia, also had a message for the Justice Minister. "Even Sigmund Freud said it was no more possible to treat homosexuals than it was to treat heterosexuals," she remarked.
Despite his insistence that homosexuality was curable, Čarnogurský was not able to say how patients eager to rid themselves of the affliction should proceed, since homosexuality has not been included on the list of psychiatric diseases since 1973, and thus the cost of treating it would not likely be covered by Slovak medical insurance.
"I guess they'll have to lie," was Čarnogurský's advice to homosexuals who wanted the state to pay the cost of their medical rehabilitation.
28. Aug 2000 at 0:00 | Tom Nicholson