Czeslaw Walek

Equal rights optimist

Czeslaw Walek is a leading and inspirational figure in the Czech LGBTQ+ community. Ever since he founded the Prague Pride in 2011, he defies conservative politicians and extreme right hooligans with a persistent optimism.

At one point in The Law of Love, the documentary about the battle to open up marriage to same-sex couples in the Czech Republic, Czeslaw Walek says: ‘I’ve gotten used to nothing being easy here. Never.’ Seeing the patience Walek and his fellow activists need to convince politicians to embrace the Marriage Equality Bill – or even discuss it – you can understand his frustration. Still, Walek never gives up and remains ever hopeful about the future of LGBTQ+ rights in the Czech Republic.

‘At least it’s being discussed here in Parliament,’ he says during a Zoom talk in February 2022. ‘It’s being taken seriously, and that’s hopeful.’ The Law of Love documents the work that Walek and the organisation Jsme Fér (‘We are fair’) did to advance the Marriage Equality Bill. First collecting signatures to give them the right to a hearing in the Chamber of Deputies. And then having to deal with a long period of stalling and aggressive opposition.

Even though Czech public opinion is largely in favour of marriage equality, the political opposition against it is strong. During parliamentary hearings, the idea gets ridiculed and painted against frightening future prospects, such as paedophiles marrying children or people marrying dogs. Eventually, the bill couldn’t be considered in time before the parliamentary elections of October 2021 and now the whole process, which began in 2018, has to start all over again. But this doesn’t discourage Walek at all. ‘I think the chances are fifty-fifty,’ he says. ‘In June 2022 we hope the bill will be submitted again by members of Parliament from various parties.’

What drives him as an activist has a lot to do with the way he was brought up, Walek explains. ‘Of course, being gay myself motivates me to fight for LGBTQ+ rights and marriage equality. But I was brought up with the idea that you have to protect your own rights and stand up for them. Ever since I was a child, I’ve learned that.’ This fighting spirit is a big factor in his optimism. Like he says: ‘I have a strong feeling that there is hope in the Czech Republic.’

The Law of Love is shown at the Movies that Matter Festival 2022, where Czeslaw Walek will be a special guest.