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Activist sees 'new beginning' after Polish state TV apologizes for years of anti-LGBTQ propaganda

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — An LGBTQ rights activist in Poland said Tuesday that he believes it's a “new beginning” in Poland after a host on state television apologized on air for the homophobic propaganda aired by state media in recent years.

“It took me by surprise,” said Bart Staszewski, one of two activists invited on air Sunday evening when the state TVP host apologized to them for the rhetoric directed at their community for years.

Staszewski, who had been personally targeted by the previous government, added: “I didn't realize how much I needed” to hear the apology.

During the eight years of rule by the national conservative Law and Justice party, state media promoted the party's line that LGBTQ+ people were threats to Polish families. At one point President Andrzej Duda — an ally of the former government — said he agreed with the idea that LGBT was “an ideology” and “not people."

The approach has changed under a new centrist government led by Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who moved quickly to eject the Law and Justice supporters from positions of power over state media.

Wojciech Szeląg, the TV host, began his discussion with the two activists by saying: “For many years in Poland shameful words have been directed at numerous individuals simply because they chose to decide for themselves who they are and whom they love. LGBT+ people are not an ideology, but people, with specific names, faces, relatives and friends.”

“All these people should hear the words ‘I am sorry’ exactly from this place,” Szeląg said. “I am sorry.”

Staszewski said the apology was refreshing and he feels like it's a “new beginning.”

But he also said the new government still has work to do given that same-sex unions are still not permitted under Polish law. The LGBTQ+ community is also pushing for the new authorities to pass a hate speech law.