While Reykjavík Pride takes place the Prague Pride is going on in the Czech Republic. GayIcelands’ reporter Anna Kristine met with real live gay couple Martin Benda (35) and Jan Lukas (also called Honza, 28), who are from Prague and asked them a bit about themselves and the situation for queer people in their country.
The couple love Iceland and Martin even worked here for few months few years ago. I begin by on a personal note, by asking how the two met.
“We first started chatting on a gay dating site in October 2013 and then we met romantically in front of the St. Ludmila Church at náměstí Míru in Prague,” says Martin.
Honza isn’t quite happy with the answer. He looks Martin in the eyes and they start laughing.
“It was October 2012!, he says with a broad smile. “Martin, you should have remembered! I was in a bad mood and I didn´t want go on this date! I was standing on a tram stop and I had decided to take the first incoming tram. The first went in Martin´s direction.”
“Prague is very easy-going and open for LGBTQ people.”
When asked how LGBTQI rights are in the CZR, Martin points out that Czech Republic is the first Post-Communist countries to recognize LGBT partnerships even though the word „marriage“ is still reserved for straight couples. “There is a space for improvement but bearing in mind the situation in Poland or Russia we Czechs can´t complain.”
What is the situation for LGBTQI people in the Czech Republic – for example do you have to fight to have a relaxed life as gay men there or is everything going smoothly?
“It is going fine in Prague,” says Martin.
Honza nods. “Prague is very easy-going and open for LGBTQ people,” he says. “My boss and my colleagues know about me and Martin and I have never felt uncomfortable. I can live the way I want to. When Martin and I told our families we were gay 99% greeted us.”
How do you find LGBTQ rights in Iceland and are there things you would want to see change in your country?
“I have always admired Iceland, for its social norms and LGBTQ rights, among other things,” Martin answers. “I wish Czech Republic would completely legalize gay adoptions, I also would love to see churches supporting and celebrating gay couples.”
Do you have a union like we have Samtokin ´78?
“Sure, says Martin. “I myself have been very much involved in establishing a couple of LGBT platforms – Charlie (LGBTQ association at Charles University), PROUD (umbrella organization with similar functions like Samtökin´78) and also Prague Pride.”
The Prague Pride is currently taking place, tell me about that?
“We’ve had it since 2013. It has now grown into a major Czech event, definitely the largest gay event in Central and Eastern Europe with more than 100 events during the whole Pride week. In 2015 I was in charge of welcoming the official Prague Pride guests, including your former PM Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir and her spouse Jónína Léosdóttir. A year later we visited them at their home in Reykjavík.”
Are you working on things to make the queer community better in CZR?
“Yes,“ answers Martin without hesitation. “At my previous employer, ExxonMobil, I was heavily involved in its LGBT employee club called PRIDE and I am quite proud for what we achieved there – HIV testing, visible and branded participation at the Prague Pride and I also was in charge of the very first LGBTQ campaign within this oil corporation. As a result, in June 2018 ExxonMobil BSC Prague was awarded LGBTQ friendly employer of 2017.
In my current political campaign I also focus on HIV/AIDS prevention as we want Prague to join the Paris 2014 mayors declaration. If I get elected into office I would also ensure the Rainbow flag to be flown from the Prague Townhall during Pride.”
“I have always admired Iceland, for its social norms and LGBTQ rights, among other things.”
How did you find Icelanders´attitude towards LGBTQI people?
“I have only been twice in Iceland,“ says Honza. “Recently for a few weeks and I was in Iceland in 2016 for some three weeks. I don´t a have big experience but I think Nordic countries in general are very open and friendly towards LGBTQ people. We have travelled a lot. We went to France, Croatia and each year we ski in Austria and actually we organize a lot of trips around the country with our frinds. And last but least we were recently in Iceland.”
How do you see the future waiting for you?
“We hope we will be able to live well and peacefully in Czech Republic but if emigration needed – it would be to the North . We hope more children will be adopted there. We are thinking of helping the declining Czech demography.”
Are the two of you getting married some day?
In a church if that will ever be allowed?
“Neither of us is religious so I don’t think so. But we are sure we will stay in love for the years to come!”