Royal couple having tea in Slovak queer bar Yesterday, 20:35 in Buitenland , Royal House Last October, a man shot and killed two people who were sitting on a bench in front of the bar. A third person was injured.

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The King and Queen visit the Tepláren café in Bratislava
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  • Charlotte Waayers

    correspondent Central Europe

It’s a bit of a puzzle in Roman Samotny’s small bar in Bratislava. He moves the tables and benches. Not for a party, but for a good conversation, because the Dutch king and queen come for tea.

The royal couple visits the queer bar Tepláren as part of their state visit to Slovakia. They have been invited by Slovak President Zuzana Caputová to show their support after a shooting a few months ago. It is a progressive statement in a predominantly conservative country.

Willem-Alexander and Máxima meet Samotny a little later. They also speak with, among others, relatives of one of the victims of the shooting. The king calls their arrival brave and says he can imagine that the pain is still fresh. He also says that everyone should be able to be themselves.

One more queer bar left

Bratislava doesn’t have many queer bars. In addition to a club, there were two places that felt like safe havens for LGBTI people to go out. Until last October, a man shot and killed two people sitting on the bench in front of Tepláren, and a third was injured.

Since then, Tepláren has been closed, says owner Samotny. “I can no longer bear the responsibility for the safety of those who come here,” he sighs. “And I don’t want to see dead people in my bar anymore.”

After the murder, thousands of people took to the streets to show their support for the community. And more attention was paid to tackling hate messages and disinformation, Samotny saw.

Nevertheless, the acceptance of LGBTI people in the predominantly Catholic Slovakia is still low compared to other EU countries. It is one of the few countries within the union where no form of registered partnership is possible for homosexual couples, which means that they also have no other rights. For example, when it comes to medical decisions about partners, or the possibility of inheriting from each other.

Here God and the devil fight in our soul. It is up to us whether we choose the good or the bad.

Anton Chromík, founder of the Alliance for the Family lobby group

Most Slovaks do not see this as a problem of principle. According to a 2020 European Commission survey, less than one in three support equal rights for LGBTI people, the lowest percentage in the EU.

“Here it is distributed,” says Anton Chromík in his office, pointing to his chest. “Here God and the devil fight in our souls. And it’s up to us whether we choose the good or the bad.”

Chromík is the founder of the Alliance for the Family, a lobby group that campaigns with petitions and referenda for what he thinks a family should look like: a family made up of children and their biological parents. Other types of families, such as two mothers or two fathers, are bad for him.

Equal rights or not

Chromík clearly disapproves of the shooting at the queer bar. “We love all people, including people who are attracted to the same sex. They are not inferior people, but they have different kinds of problems.”

He compares it to smoking. “No one in Slovakia will regard smokers as inferior people with fewer rights. But society does not support smoking because it is harmful.”

Unlike with smoking, he does not believe that people should have the choice. If gays would be given the same rights as straights, he says, this would open the door to forms of family that are harmful to children and society.

It doesn’t look like that will happen any time soon. The current Slovak government is seen as the most conservative since the beginning of the republic 30 years ago. Three days after the shooting, an equal rights proposal was rejected.

‘No isolated incident’

Bar owner Samotny points to politicians spreading disinformation and openly speaking hatefully about gays and trans people, without being punished. “A member of parliament said in parliament that it would be better to throw gays into the water with stones at their feet. He is still a member of parliament, it had no consequences.”

He does not see the murder at his bar as an isolated incident by a confused boy. “If hate speech and homophobia and transphobia are considered normal, then one day a weak or vulnerable boy will stand up and decide to do ‘the right thing’: to kill queer people, because we have been labeled as a danger to Slovak society .”

The royal couple’s visit may be symbolic, but he still thinks that the signal can help the acceptance of LGBT people. “Maybe it will motivate people to look at our lives differently.”

  • Abroad

  • Royal family

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