Polish president revives attacks on LGBT community in re-election campaign

Andrzej Duda warns Poles to be vigilant against ‘foreign’ attempts to co-opt nation’s identity

People take part in a rainbow disco flashmob in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, amid attacks on the LGBT community by president Andrzej Duda. Photograph: AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski

People take part in a rainbow disco flashmob in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, Poland, amid attacks on the LGBT community by president Andrzej Duda. Photograph: AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski

 

Poland’s president has revived an attack campaign on the country’s LGBT community, warning Poles to be vigilant against “foreign” attempts to co-opt the country’s traditional values and identity.

Two weeks before he hopes to secure re-election for a second term, president Andrzej Duda has said discussing LGBT rights and offering sex education in schools were attempts to “penetrate into our reality, sometimes by force”.

“This is a foreign ideology that we won’t allow to be introduced into our country,” said Mr Duda. His warnings about a so-called “LGBT ideology” revive a strategy that rallied traditional Polish voters in last year’s parliamentary elections and secured a second term in power for his allies in the national conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party.

But a pillar of last year’s campaign, a resolution for so-called “LGBT-free zones” since adopted by one-third of Polish municipalities, has triggered a pan-EU backlash.

On Thursday councillors from the Fermoy municipal district of Cork County Council agreed to vote next month on a motion to suspend Fermoy’s twinning with one Polish town which took such a move, Nowa Deba.

“We wrote to them asking to explain their actions and that we are not happy with it,” said Fine Gael councillor Noel McCarthy. “We wrote that we think this is a backward step and they need to reconsider it. We can’t have ties with a town that has LGBT people discriminated against.”

Controversial vote

Ten councillors in Nowa Deba, located two hours west of Krakow, backed an “LGBT-free zone” resolution on July 26th last year, with just one opposing vote.

A report of the public session says that a councillor in favour of the resolution struggled when asked by a member of the public if he knew what LGBT stood for. The town has yet to respond to the Fermoy letter; mayor Wieslaw Ordon said he had yet to receive it.

Fermoy is part of a growing number of towns across Europe questioning their twinning arrangements with Poland. In February, the French town of St-Jean-de-Braye cut its ties to Tuchow, in Poland’s southeast, after 25 years.

German LGBT activists have ordered more than 300 German towns and cities to review their partnerships with Poland in light of the “LGBT-free zone” resolutions, which originated last year in the town of Swidnik, near the eastern city of Lublin.

Councillors there backed a motion warning about “homopropaganda” that threatened the “innocence of children” and the “national traditions” of Poland. Swidnik officials said they were responding to a move by Warsaw city council to introduce school guidance counsellors for LGBT pupils.

Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, a supporter of LGBT rights, is now running for the presidency in an increasingly polarised society.

Polls indicate a neck-and-neck race between Mr Trzaskowski and Mr Duda, suggesting Polish LGBT people can expect the tone to harden still further before the June 28th vote.

‘Zone of freedom’

Another presidential hopeful, the gay left-wing candidate Robert Biedron, has made a point of campaigning – he calls it “trespassing” – in the so-called LGBT-free zones. “We don’t want any such zones, we want all of Poland to be a single zone of freedom,” he said.

Campaigners say the “LGBT-free zones” – now in 90 Polish towns and cities – have helped stir up a“pogrom mood” towards the LGBT community.

Rather than cut ties, Queer.pl, Poland’s leading LGBT portal, has suggested twinned-town councillors should visit Poland to educate their councillor colleagues on anti-discrimination.

A key characteristic of the politics of PiS, since it took office in 2015 and in its previous term a decade ago, is to mobilise its core vote by demonising distinct groups: immigrants, judges and now LGBT people.

Last week prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki vowed to defend Poland from “ideological experiments”, while a party official compared same-sex marriages – illegal in Poland – to a union between a man and a goat.

Dublin Social Democrat TD Cian O’Callaghan has warned that the campaign in Poland has “stoked up hatred, fear and violence” and has urged Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney in a letter to raise the matter with the Polish ambassador and at his next European Council meeting.

The European Commission has warned Poland that no-go areas for certain citizens are “against the values set out in the EU treaty”.

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