Prague LGBT Pride’s Festival of Tolerance not Tolerated

Beginning tomorrow, Prague’s first pride festival will take over the city. So will counter marches organized by the Young Christian Democrats association (KDU-ČSL) and the Movement for Life, conservative groups who are concerned at the amount of attention LGBT people are drawing.

Prague Pride 2011’s Festival of Tolerance will take place over four days in the Czech capital. The festival (slogan: “Drink beer, be queer”) puts emphasis on acceptance and is being promoted as a party and not a political event. According to festival spokesman, Daniel Kupsovsky, “Prague, unlike most of the Eastern European capitals, will not create Pride as a protest, but as a celebration of tolerance — and a street party, because we feel there is not much to protest about.

The Czech Republic, and Prague in particular, is considered to be one of the most queer-friendly places in Eastern Europe. While gay adoption and marriage are still taboo, open military service is legal, registered partnerships are permitted, and statutes against workplace discrimination have been in place since 2001. Unfortunately, legal protection doesn’t always guarantee an atmosphere of acceptance. During 2008’s Brno Pride, neo-Nazis and other extremist groups blocked the parade route and threw tear gas at marchers. Activists have continued to hold the parade in Brno in the years since the attack, and hope that this year’s Prague Pride will be as successful.

As innocuously-named as it is, the Festival of Tolerance has already drawn criticism from conservative politicians as high-ranking as the President, Václav Klaus. The scuffle began when Petr Hájek, deputy head of the Presidential Office, criticized other center-right politicians for supporting Prague Pride. He called on the Mayor of Prague, Bohuslav Sodoba, to denounce the event for supporting “sexual or any other deviation[s].” Despite objection from centrist and left-leaning groups, Klaus supported his aide’s statements.

The back-and-forth continued on Friday when the Embassies of 13 countries including the U.S. sent an open letter declaring their solidarity with festival participants. In response, conservative group D.O.S.T. wrote a letter addressed to Norman Eisen, U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic,  and Svodoba asking them to withdraw their support for the event.

Ladislav Bátora, the Czech Education Ministry head of human resources who co-authored the letter, has said he’ll be marching in the KDU-ČSL-sponsored counter marches on Saturday. Ironically, representatives from KDU-ČSL have voiced their disapproval with Bátora, who has ties to extreme-right parties, in the past. In an open letter to the Prime Minister, senators wrote that “it is unacceptable that people with such extremist pasts can occupy high-level government posts and participate in the governing of our country. It is unacceptable for the government to tolerate and approve such persons in these posts.

Supporters are refusing to accept Bátora and co.’s demands, chiming in with others who’ve said there’s no room in the Czech Republic for their bigotry. Oldrich Lomecky, the mayor of Prague’s 1st district and a patron of Prague Pride, drew comparisons between opponents of the festival and Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik; “Those are claustrophobic opinions. Breivik is just the tip of that iceberg. Those opinions make for intolerance.

President Klaus remains adamant in that he “feel[s] no ‘pride’ about this event.” In a remarkable display of political doublespeak, he says that he respects homosexuality but not ‘homosexualism.’ What exactly is homosexualism? According to Mr. Klaus’s record, it’s one of those fashionable modern “-isms” like feminism, environmentalism, and liberalism, (and communism, which is confusing because I thought communism was about conformity and oppression and he seems to be a-OK with that) that threaten to change our way of life. Sign me up! He’s also accused the Embassies who signed the open letter of overstepping their boundaries; “The ambassadors should know that the debate in our country was not about whether or not to permit this manifest action of homosexuals but about its public support by a prominent member of a right-wing conservative party, the Mayor of the city.

In his attempt to reframe the bigger issue of homophobia as political support for a single person, the president is doing his best to erase the problem rather than address it. His attitude towards homosexuality–“I don’t care what you do in your own bedroom, but keep that shit to yourself”–is nothing new. It’s the same message we get from some of our families, our schools, strangers on the street and bullies. It’s why pride festivals are so important. Pride reinforces the idea that queer people are normal and are valuable and, despite what the Mr. Klaus believes, deserve to be celebrated.


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Laura

Laura is a tiny girl who wishes she were a superhero. She likes talking to her grandma on the phone and making things with her hands. Strengths include an impressive knowledge of Harry Potter, the ability to apply sociology to everything under the sun, and a knack for haggling for groceries in Spanish. Weaknesses: Chick-fil-a, her triceps, girls in glasses, and the subjunctive mood. Follow the vagabond adventures of Laura and her bike on twitter [@laurrrrita].

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18 Comments

  1. I really hope nothing bad happens. I’m in San Francisco so I sometimes forget how different the world at large is. It’s really sad. But Prague’s first Pride Festival? That’s exciting! Things like that are always going to have opposition, at least while there are politicians who are not confident enough in their own sexuality to leave us alone.

  2. I’ve always been confused as to why pride parades and other public celebrations of that sort have always been such a big deal to conservatives. If you don’t like gay pride, THEN DON’T GO. It’s that freaking simple.

  3. First of all:

    “and statues against workplace discrimination”

    Um, statutes??

    Also, I’m glad Autostraddle posts articles such as these; I love knowing what’s going on around the world. :D

    LOL what’s up with this ~homosexualism~ word?? He certainly violates my beliefs, for I am against douche-ism.

  4. First of all there is PLENTY to protest against in the Czech Republic.
    1. Czech registered partnerships are 90% inadequate. They are nothing like UK or Danish partnerships that are 100% equal tomarriage in everything but name, or like Swiss or Hungarian ones that are equal in everything but adoption rights. A Czech partnership has almost none of the rights found in a marriage, and the ones it does have are not as good (it offers tax breaks like a marriage, but not as good tax breaks). You have no rights to your partner’s pension or property and cannot sponsor them for immigration, and of course no rights to adopt children.
    2. The non-discrimination statues in the Czech republic only apply to employment, which is the EU MINIMUM, and was only brought in so they country could join the EU. You can still be thrown out of a restaurant, hotel, or your rented housing for being gay.

    Just because Prague has lots of night clubs and bars and sauans and you can hold hands in the street in most places doesn’t mean there is equality. there is only tolerance (as long as you know your place).

    • Hmm, not sure where you got your info but it appears to be rather off. As far as I know, most of the laws have been updated so that everywhere where there is the word marriage mentioned it is followed by the partnership. My partner and I got registered last November. He as a us citizen only had to get a confirmation that he entered the Czech rep legally and that is pretty much it. Got registered the very next day which automatically made him a partner of an eu citizen (me) with eu residency with all related rights. I also changed my last name with no problems whatsoever. Thus far had no issues in any other regard – also got a confirmation from the lawyer should anything happen to me (or him for that matter) he (or I) would be in the “first line” in all heritage related matters (ie he would get everything should I die) under the Czech law ; though have to mention that we have not dealt with anything related to tax/pension at all, I guess we might eventually face some issues.

    • And as far as being thrown out of a bar, hotel for being gay??? LOL that is an absolute nonsense. Are you sure you are talking about the same country. I have experienced some redneck looks while holding my partners hand or kissing him in public, but never was discriminated in any way you described

  5. “statute” – note that this is a law, not a piece of art.

    “European” is correct about the bare minimum required here. Czechs are mainly tolerant but see the LGBT lifestyle as a deviance. Still, it’s difficult to find many who openly hate gay people unless you leave the major towns. Village life is village life..

    There have been gay pride festivals here in the past. the 2008 festival in Brno was blockaded by Neo-Nazis. However, the 2009 festival was well-attended by police, and so in 2010 Brno had no problems. I don’t expect any problems & am looking forward to this week in Prague.

  6. I just came from Prague yesterday having spend the last three weeks traveling through eastern europe.

    Prague was the only city where i noticed gay couples.

    Prague seems to be the most liberal and western city in the slavic/hungarin part of europe. You can´t really compare Prague to Moscow but almost all european countries are having troubles with a rising far right.

  7. First of all, Czech Republic is Central Europe. Eastern Europe is Russia, Ukraine, Romania, not Czech Republic. People don’t call Austria Eastern because they speak the same language as Germans, but because Czechs are Slavic, they are Eastern. NO. Second: I also visited Prague in the past couple of weeks and it’s gay-friendly, but it’s not Copenhagen or Amsterdam. Sorry. Look, I’m from Romania and here LGBT are not accepted, I guess it’s the same wirh all Eastern Europe countries (especially orthodox ones).
    I’ve seen gay couples in Prague, but reckon people don’t really accept LGBT (ex-communist country mentality). Sorry for my rant, it was a bit too long. Greetings from a straight girl, but definitely NOT homophobic.

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