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Will you register with me or marry me? Defence of same sex marriage in the Czech Republic

One of the most famous songs from the Beatles is called ‘Love is All You Need’. It is a very beautiful idea but it is not really true when you want to confirm your love and get married. You need more than just love in the Czech Republic. For example, you need to be more than 18 years old and you cannot be married already. Those are some reasonable requirements from the state but you also cannot marry a person who has same sex as you. All you can do is register your partnership, which is not the same as a marriage. I am going to argue for same sex marriage based on three main reasons: every person should have the right to marry a person whom he or she loves, same sex marriage does not endanger traditional marriage as there is family change occurring anyway and, on the contrary, it would change something for the same sex couples and not for opposite sex couples or society overall.

Since 2006, same sex couples can register their partnership in the Czech Republic. But as I said before, it is not same as a marriage, although some people think it is. In fact, there are differences. For example, same sex couples can register only at fourteen registry offices at certain times, and there are no witnesses or co-ownership afterwards. Further, partners do not have same last name automatically after they register. They must ask and pay for it if they want it. And, perhaps what is considered most controversial about same sex marriage, registered couples cannot adopt a child. [Minister of Interior 2014] However, there is no reason for these differences: same sex couples should have the right to marry in the Czech Republic. I am aware that it is a long process so it should be taken step by step. The Netherlands can serve as an example as it was the first state in the world who allowed same sex marriage. And that did not occur overnight. [see Waaldijk 2001]

Every person should have the right to marry another person, regardless of sex. Homosexuals are not ‘sick’ and there is anything wrong with them; they do not choose if they are homosexual or heterosexual. They should be equal and have the freedom to marry the person whom they love. Wyarr-Nichol and Naylor analysed equality, individual freedom and morality in USA coming to the conclusion that ‘the prohibition of same-sex marriage restricts liberty and autonomy, fails to meet the criteria for moralistic and paternalistic policies, and violates the U.S. Constitution’. [Wyarr-Nichol, Naylor 2015:128] There should be equality between same-sex and opposite-sex couples also because relationships among same sex couples are not distinctly different from relationships among opposite sex couples. Even though these relationships are not the same in every aspect, the processes which regulate the relationships of same sex couples living in cohabitation are same as the processes regulating relationships among married couples with children [Kurdek 2004] And yet relationships of same sex couples are taken as something less than relationships of opposite sex couples in the Czech Republic. That is very clear from the fact that they can only register their partnership – just like you register your car or your dog. But that is quite a different thing from two persons who love each other and have a serious relationship. They can create a new family although it will not be a traditional family as we know it.

A family which we consider traditional is changing. Some people are worried that same sex marriage would be a threat to a traditional family represented by a man and woman and their children but there are bigger behavioural changes going on. According to Saraceno [1997] there are three: increasing female employment; increasing instability of marriage and number of children born outside of wedlock; and declining fertility. In other words, people have less children on average, they postpone the first birth, marry less and at a higher age – but divorce more and live in cohabitation more. An increasing number of children have divorced parents and live with a stepmother or stepfather; more and more are born outside marriage. Van de Kaa [2002] is calling this the ‘second demographic transition’. The change in the ‘traditional’ family is consequence of this transition so same sex marriage does not represent such a large threat.

It will be an enormous change for same sex couples if they can marry but it would not affect opposite sex couples. Dinno and Whitney [2013] conducted a study in the United States testing the hypothesis that same sex marriage, or stronger or weaker same sex union laws, will affect the rates of opposite sex marriage. They studied 14 states from 1988 to 2009 and they found that there was no relationship between implementing same sex marriage or strengthening or weakening same sex laws and rates of opposite sex marriage. To demonstrate that same sex marriage does not result in any social catastrophe or destruction of family we can also look to a few countries which have allowed marriage for same sex couples. There are twenty-five countries in the world permitting marriage for same sex couples, including the Netherlands, Sweden, the USA, Germany or, newly, Australia. [Echo24 2018] Boele-Woelki, Curry-Sumner, Jansen and Schrama evaluated same sex marriages and registered partnerships in the Netherlands. They considered three perspectives: national legal, international legal and sociological. Their result for same sex marriage was that “the opening of civil marriage to same-sex couples is to be regarded as a success” [Boele-Woelki, Curry-Sumner, Jansen, Schrama 2006:35], although they admit problems related to international recognition and also the question of how to best protect children who are born or live in same sex relationships.

 

To sum up, same sex marriage is not something what would destroy the traditional family or imply some change for opposite sex couples and their marriages. It would be a change for same sex couples who have nearly the same relationships as opposite sex couples and who deserve to have a marriage because they are human as well and it should be celebrated when they find the love of their life. Same sex marriage would mean that the only thing that matters is the love, just like John Lennon once said:

‘It matters not who you love, where you love, why you love, when you love or how you love, it matters only that you love’.

Marcela Trávníčková is a Master’s degree student of Sociology

Article was proofread and edited by professor Nadya Jaworsky

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