In a narrow vote, councillors in Kraśnik, in eastern Poland, voted Tuesday (22 September) to keep their municipality an “LGBT-free zone” in an open challenge to the scores of European Union pressure to undo such patches of open hostility.
Presenting a fresh test for the bloc’s officials, the problem of Poland’s increasing patchwork of towns and district’s – many tied to EU funding programs – that declares themselves “free from LGBT+ ideology” has rankled many queer activists.
According to Thomson Reuters Foundation, the mayor Wojciech Wilk’s office in Kraśnik said councillors voted 11 to nine to keep the symbolic motion passed in May 2019. Councillors said at the time that they vowed to defend the town from “radicals striving for a cultural revolution”.
“The citizens of these cities are losing because of the path [politicians] choose,” said Bartosz Staszewsk, an activist ardently campaigning against the zones. Staszewsk said the move was against the interests of the town’s some 35,000 residents.
In LGBT+ people, Poland picked its new top enemy.
Many EU leaders have grappled with how to handle Poland’s dizzying spiral into homophobia, where Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the governing Law and Justice, has repeatedly positioned LGBT+ people as a corrosive threat to so-called traditional values.
Such attacks have been amplified further by a state media which has been twisted into a propaganda arm of the government, as well as by Catholic clergy leaders and the country’s president, Andrzej Duda.
Indeed, Duda and Kaczynski’s party election campaigns were both bitter displays in which support was sought by stirring disgust among voters, emboldening an increasing amount to commit acts of violence against LGBT+ people.
This new impunity felt by homophobes has seen Pride-goers at parades in far-flung towns have bottles, eggs and firecrackers lobbed at them, while Poland has become a patchwork of “LGBT-free zones” across 100 municipalities – more than one-third of the country.
As much as Poland’s ruling lawmakers have denied or downplayed these zones, European officials have imposed financial sanctions on “LGBT-free” towns by denying them funds for its town twinning programme.
MEPs and community leaders have urged EU leaders to safeguard the rights of LGBT+ community in Poland, with gay Polish politician Robert Biedron likening the “dehumanisation” of the LGBT+ community to the treatment of Jewish people before World War Two — echoing a similar warning from the country’s Jewish leaders.