In a rare move, Czech companies have addressed an open letter to Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala to back marriage for all legislation. Companies argue they are losing talent as a result of unequal rights for sexual minorities in the country.
“The letter was signed by 66 smaller and bigger companies employing tens of thousands of people in the Czech Republic,” Richard Stonavsky, vice president of Vodafone, one of the letters' signatories, was quoted as saying by Czech Television (CT).
The letter states that discrimination against LGBT+ people costs the Czech economy 0.1-0.7% of GDP annually.
Fiala leads a centre-right coalition of five parties, which has a comfortable majority of 108 legislators in the Chamber of Deputies (parliament) of 200. However, the coalition’s conservative legislators from the neoliberal ODS and the strongly Catholic Christian Democrats oppose the marriage for all legislation, which made it to the second reading in the parliament in June for the first time in Czechia’s history.
The second reading of the legislation is expected in November.
Fiala thanked the companies for the letter, stating, “I have never shied away from debate on how to improve the lives of those living in same-sex partnership – moving the legislation so they have more rights.”
He added that he wants “parliamentarians to vote freely based on their own convictions about morally-ethical affairs.”
Czechia was once viewed as a champion of human rights in the region following the fall of communist rule in 1989.
It was fairly quick to adopt legislation guaranteeing civil partnership to same-sex couples, and opinion polls show that Czechs are among the most liberal on sexual issues among the former Communist states of Central and Eastern Europe.
However, after nearly two decades of governments with a large presence of populist and conservative-leaning parties, further legislative development guaranteeing equal rights to LGBT+ people has all but stalled.
The government has only recently decided to begin the ratification process of the Istanbul Convention against violence to women, even though Czechia signed up to it in 2016. It is unclear whether the parliament can complete the ratification, with many conservative, populist and far-right legislators opposing it.
Rightwing parties across Europe have used the convention to try to start culture wars against liberal and leftwing opponents.