PRAGUE, April 29 (Reuters) - A same-sex marriage bill in the Czech Republic cleared an early hurdle in the lower house of parliament on Thursday, but whether it will become law is uncertain with a general election less than six months away.
The legislation has languished for three years in parliament and has split parliamentary factions as lawmakers voted both in favour and against within their parties.
Around half of European Union countries have same-sex marriage laws.
In the Czech Republic, same-sex couples can enter into registered partnerships since 2006.
Critics say that step removed some obstacles, but does not place same-sex couples on an equal footing with heterosexual couples, especially in legal issues, such as child adoptions or property rights.
The new bill, which was approved in a first reading and will head to committee debate before a final vote, amends the Civil Code to say marriage is a union of "two persons", instead of "a man and a woman" in the current version.
Opponents seeking to dismiss the bill lacked six votes among 93 lawmakers present.
At the same session, a counter bill also got through an initial vote. It aims for the country's Constitution to say that marriage of a man and a woman is protected by law.
As the bills have to also pass the upper chamber, the Senate, and be signed by the president to become law, it is uncertain whether there is enough time for either to make it to a final vote before the Oct. 8-9 election. (Reporting by Robert Muller; editing by Barbara Lewis)
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