Battle Over LGBT Rights in Poland
Political rhetoric - emotions and values - and local citizens all get stirred up around election time
In March, the local council in Swidnik passed a motion to reject what it viewed as the spread of “LGBT ideology” in homes, schools, and workplaces.
“I am against this (the LGBT ideology). People should live normal lives, by the book, there shouldn’t be any gays or other deviations, everything should be normal,” 88-year-old pensioner Miroslaw Rutkowski said.
Views that are offensive or illegal in many European countries have been widely aired in Poland ahead of the May European Parliament elections, where LGBT rights are a hot-button issue.
In a bitter campaign, the ruling Law and Justice party has depicted such rights as dangerous foreign ideas that undermine traditional values in Poland.
“The European Parliament election is approaching and people suddenly want to gain popularity. But I think that, unfortunately, they have picked the wrong issue, for Swidnik and elsewhere. I think people should live their own lives without forcing their beliefs on others,” 21-year-old student Magdalena Zielinska said.
Some right-wing politicians have publicly denounced a sex-education program based on World Health Organization guidelines, claiming it will sexualize children and have urged Poles to vote for what they call “the only party that gives a 100 percent guarantee that our values will be protected.”
“Among the goals the homosexual community wants to achieve is child adoption by people in partnerships, or whatever you may call such relationships. This is an attack on the idea of the traditional family upheld by our society,” Sex Education Teacher Agata Gburczyk said.
While divisive, the campaign seems to have got voters’ attention.
Warsaw-based pollster IBRIS’s survey published on May 19 suggested the turnout could be around 40 percent – unprecedented in a country where barely a quarter of the electorate usually vote in European elections.
The Law and Justice Party (PiS) took power in 2015 and remains popular, thanks to generous welfare payouts, low unemployment, and nationalist rhetoric.
“I think Law and Justice always needs an enemy. Before, it was the immigrants, now it is the LGBT community. They made it very clear, to put it simply – they must have an enemy and they use it to scare people,” LGBT activist Bartosz Staszewski said.
The anti-LGBT declarations by Swidnik and other councils were not legally binding but nevertheless have a chilling effect.