Polish court rejects complaint against remarks about Varadkar

Complainants says court ‘stated plainly’ that pro-life campaigner’s comment was ‘unacceptable’

File photograph showing a sticker with words ‘LGBT-free zone’ distributed in weekly conservative magazine Gazeta Polska, in Warsaw, in 2019. Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters

File photograph showing a sticker with words ‘LGBT-free zone’ distributed in weekly conservative magazine Gazeta Polska, in Warsaw, in 2019. Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters

 

A Warsaw court has dismissed a case taken by Polish LGBTQ activists against a politician who described Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s sexuality as a “perversion”.

In May 2018 Kaja Godek, a prominent pro-life campaigner in Poland, linked Ireland’s recent abortion referendum result in Ireland to what she called the “bizarre” sexual orientation of then taoiseach Mr Varadkar who, she claimed, flaunted “his perversion to the people”.

Ms Godek said her remarks on national television were her personal opinion, informed by her Catholic faith and church teaching on homosexuality.

A group of 16 activists sued over remarks their solicitor Aneta Jadach said had impinged on their welfare and personal feelings of safety by triggering an unprecedented campaign of hate speech and violence.

In a hearing at Warsaw regional court on Tuesday, Judge Adam Mitkiwiecz said there was “no doubt” that Mrs Godek’s remarks were to be assessed negatively. However, he saw no possibilities for the claimants to seek remedy under civil law and suggested they seek remedy “under other systems of law”.

Poland has no hate speech legislation, meaning it is not a criminal offence to denigrate or incite violence against LGBTQ people.

Public prosecutor Krzysztof Kalinowski told the court it was clear that Mrs Godek’s “perversion” claim “only referred to the prime minister of Ireland and not to everyone”.

Solicitor Wojciech Kozlowski, for the complainants, told the court there was a “thin line” between such remarks and inciting violence, as demonstrated by last week’s riot in Washington DC.

Announcing an appeal on Tuesday, Prof Jakub Urbanik, a Warsaw academic and one of the complainants, said: “The court stated plainly that it was unacceptable what she said, so that is already something.”

Interviewed by the Irish Times after charges were filed, Mrs Godek described Mr Varadkar’s homosexuality as an “ailment” and the case as an example of “rainbow totalitarianism”.

In a separate television discussion around the same time, also cited by the complainants, Mrs Godek demanded greater efforts to “put some order” on the LGBTQ community.

Since Mrs Godek made her remarks, leading politicians and the Polish president have denounced as anti-Polish what they term “LGBT ideology”. Several Polish pride parades have ended in violent altercations with far-right groups while a series of regional cities have declared themselves “LGBT-free zones”.

That has attracted the ire of the European Commission and, last October, prompted Fermoy, Co Cork to terminate its twinning relationship with one such town, Nowa Deba.