Czech Officials Trash Prague Pride

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday August 5, 2011

The Czech city of Prague is set to host its first gay Pride events later this month, but the historic occasion has already been marred by anti-gay trash talk from the top levels of the country's government.

An Aug. 5 posting at the website for Czech news outlet ?eské Noviny reported that an aid to Czech President Vaclav Klaus has derided the upcoming Pride events, saying that Pride celebrates "deviants" with "deformed values."

The aid also dismissed the Pride event as nothing more than a political exercise in what he dubbed "homosexualism," and critiqued politicians from another party who lent their support to the event, including Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda.

The remarks were made by Petr Hajek, the deputy head of the president's office, on Hajak's website. Hajek called gays "deviant fellow citizens," and declared, "the... Prague gay carnival is a pressure action and a political demonstration of a world with deformed values."

Hajek's anti-gay comment touched off a round of criticism and calls by Vaclav to denounce Hajek's views. Among those to condemn Hajek's remarks was Michaela Marksova-Tominova, the minister of Czech's Social Democrats' (CSSD) human rights office.

"Such a deliberate incitement for hatred of a minority or group of people in the country is inadmissible," a statement from Marksova-Tominova declared. "Such a statement is doubly undignified and inadmissible if made by one of the closest collaborators of the president."

Opposition party Public Affairs (VV) office demanded "an appropriate apology by Hajek in the media and also a statement by the head of state that would set right the words of his subordinate," the article said.

But Vaclav embraced his aid's homophobic commentary, a separate Aug. 5 ?eské Noviny article said.

"I resolutely reject the demands voiced by the CSSD and the VV that I distance myself from the statements by Petr Hajek that he made in connection with Mayor Svoboda's patronage of the Prague Pride event," Klaus stated. "Though the statements were not mine and I would probably choose slightly different words, I do not feel any pride in the event either."

"It is one thing to tolerate it, but to express public support on behalf of a significant institution is something completely different," added the Czech president, who went on to say that calling gays "deviants" is not, clinically speaking, an insult.

"In any case, homosexuality is a considerably minority phenomenon, and it deserves our protection as such, but not necessarily our [acceptance]," Klaus added.

"The five-day Prague Pride Festival of Tolerance to be held by the gay and lesbian community for the first time in Prague on August 10-14 will culminate with a carnival parade in the center on Saturday, August 13," ?eské Noviny reported.

In many former Soviet Union countries there is a degree of anti-gay social oppression. The Czech Republic is relatively accepting of gays, however, giving legal recognition to same-sex families and allowing military service by openly soldiers, according to a Wikipedia article.

Even during the Soviet era, the Czech Republic did not persecute gays legally. Homosexuality was decriminalized there in 1962.

"There is a comparatively large gay community in Prague," the Wikipedia article notes. "The city has a large and well-developed gay nightlife scene, particularly centered on the district of Vinohrady, with at least 20 bars and clubs and 4 saunas."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.