Czech president attacks diplomats over petition

AP News
Posted: Aug 08, 2011 12:37 PM
Czech president attacks diplomats over petition

The Czech president lashed out Monday at 13 ambassadors for their petition in support of a gay pride festival in the Czech capital, and refused to distance himself from a deputy who linked homosexuality to sexual deviation.

Vaclav Klaus, a conservative politician and economist, said he considered the statement by the diplomats based in Prague _ including U.S. Ambassador Norman Eisen _ an "unprecedented step" _ as he could not imagine any Czech ambassador would dare use a petition to influence a political discussion in any democratic country.

In their statement, the ambassadors expressed their "solidarity with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in the Czech Republic, supporting their right to use the occasion to march together peacefully and lawfully, in order to raise awareness of the specific issues that affect them."

"Everyone, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people should be free to enjoy the rights and freedoms to which people of all nations are entitled," the joint statement, attributed to ambassadors from Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the U.S., said.

Klaus said in a statement that he fully agreed with his Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg's reaction to the ambassadors _ that nobody in the Czech Republic has denied or rejected gay rights, so for the diplomats to express support was "counterproductive and redundant."

Klaus said the issue at stake was not the approval of the festival, but that Prague mayor Bohuslav Svoboda _ a member of the ruling conservative Civic Democratic Party _ is publicly supporting it.

Klaus on Friday defended criticism of Svoboda by his deputy chancellor, Petr Hajek. Hajek has said the event is "a political demonstration ... of a world in which sexual or any other deviation becomes virtue," and called on Svoboda to leave his party.

Major opposition party the Social Democrats, and junior ruling coalition party, the Public Affairs party, have called on Hajek to apologize. Klaus, however, has refused to distance himself from Hajek's words, going one further and stating that he _ too _ is not proud of the event.

Since 2006, parliament approved a law _ despite a veto by Klaus _ allowing same sex partners to live in an officially registered partnership and have rights to inheritance and health care similar to those enjoyed by heterosexual married couples. The law, however, does not allow same-sex partners to marry or adopt.

The first Prague gay pride festival opens Wednesday.