Analysis: LGBT controversy takes centre stage in Poland

A lot is being written about the tensions in Poland related to the LGBT movement. PolandIN looks at the arguments on both sides of the debate.

The headline of Friday’s Washington Post “Polish towns advocate ‘LGBT-free zones’ while the ruling party cheers them on” is inaccurate. No ‘LGBT-free zones’ have been proposed. The resolutions that the paper is referring to are on “LGBT-ideology free zones”, which is a reference to keeping schools free of LGBT instruction in line with parental wishes.

Marching on

The article also reports hostility towards LGBT marchers in Kielce. In Białystok, last weekend things went far further and hundreds of police had to protect LGBT marchers from violent assault. 25 people have been arrested.

On previous Pride marches in other parts of Poland, there have been displays mocking the Catholic religion, including the performance of a mock mass in Warsaw. Such behaviour can only be described as provocative, so events such as those in Białystok were waiting to happen.

Freedom of conscience or discrimination?

Last week a Polish conservative paper “Gazeta Polska” launched campaign for “LGBT free zones”. This was condemned by the US Ambassador and the British ambassador. A prominent Catholic commentator Tomasz Terlikowski also criticised the paper for un-Christian attempts to exclude people. The government’s press spokesman also distanced the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) from such actions.

Other recent prominent stories on LGBT in Poland have featured the firing of the IKEA employee and the case of a company that had refused to print LGBT literature.

Poland’s justice minister has ordered an investigation into IKEA firing an employee for using quotes from the bible in support of his anti-LGBT views. In a social media post, the employee objected to the company’s LGBT inclusive policy. The Ombudsman has also questioned the company’s activities and the employee is suing for unfair dismissal.

The case of the printer who refused to print pro-LGBT literature has gone as far as the Constitutional Tribunal which ruled in favour of freedom of conscience. The printer in question did not refuse to serve people for being gay, he refused to take the business to print a poster he profoundly disagreed with. Since there were other suppliers of the service available the matter was not a question of a denial of freedom to publish.

LGBT and education

The debate over LGBT in Poland has also focussed around education with the Church and conservatives arguing that parents must have the ultimate right to bring up their children in line with their values and beliefs. The Polish constitution actually guarantees parents the right to bring up children in line with their values and beliefs and it also defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Finally, a little historical context, it should also be remembered that homosexuality was never illegal in Poland. Unlike in Britain or the US, gays were never punished for their sexual practices and there were no forced attempts to treat homosexuality as a disease. Polish society is conservative and the tradition is that sexuality of the individual is their private matter. Both heterosexual and gay exhibitionism is frowned upon, especially by the older generation.