For the first time in Slovak history a Member of Parliament has submitted a 'life partnerships' bill which aims to put homosexual and heterosexual couples on equal ground.
Milan Ištván, an MP for the ruling coalition Democratic Left Party, delivered the draft to parliament October 9. He was assisted in scripting it by the Inakosť (Otherness) initiative, a gay and lesbian umbrella organisation.
If passed by parliament, the bill will give homosexual partners the same rights as married heterosexuals, except for the right to adopt children, to get married in a church or to be artificially inseminated.
Although the bill's proposers describe themselves as realists, and even expect the draft to be defeated, Ištván said: "As a first attempt it will mark the official start to a wider public discussion of homosexual partnerships."
According to the draft, homosexuals who want to become 'life partners' in Slovakia must be at least 18 years old, and at least one of them a Slovak citizen. Homosexual partners will be entitled to use a common surname.
Each life partner will be a rightful heir in case of his or her partner's death. Partners will also be entitled to obtain medical information about their spouses, data that doctors can still refuse to divulge today.
Ištván said that "the Slovak parliament is conservative and lacks education in this area." But he added that except for the conservative Christian Democrats (KDH) and the Slovak Nationalist Party (SNS), every parliamentary party had at least a few MPs who had expressed support for the draft, and who could influence their party colleagues to join the vote.
Slovakia started to discuss homosexual rights about 12 months ago after Justice Minister Ján Čarnogurský, then chairman of the Christian Democrats, said that "as long as I'm the Justice Minister there will be no registered homosexual partnerships." Another Christian Democrat, psychiatrist Alojz Rakús, said that homosexuality could be medically treated.
These statements helped the Slovak homosexual community to "create contacts and cooperation with MPs and lawyers who helped us to draw up the draft," Inakosť spokesman Ivan Požgai said.
"We're realistic. It's unlikely that the bill will be passed, but it's a necessary stage that we have to go through. We'll continue proposing this bill until society and its legislators are ready to approve it," he said.
That may well take another couple of years, as some politicians remain convinced that homosexuals should not be given such "special attention in Slovak legislation," said Peter Muránsky, a Christian Democrat MP.
"If we passed the law everyone who's somehow different could ask to have special laws, for example people who have earrings in their noses," he said.
"We'll do everything in our power to prevent the law being approved. Common sense must win," Muránsky added.
Slovak homosexuals said they were used to hearing similar statements.
"We've come a long way from being ridiculed in the early 1990s, and we hope society will finally take our calls seriously," Požgai said.
If the bill is passed, about 40 related family, civil and social benefits laws will have to be updated.
22. Oct 2001 at 0:00 | Martina Pisárová