No EU funding for ‘LGBTI-ideology free’ Polish towns

EU Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli tweeted on Tuesday that six town twinning applications involving Polish authorities that allegedly adopted “LGBTI free zones” or “family rights” resolutions were rejected. As a result, these towns will not receive funding from the EU’s town twinning programme that could be effectively used for the mobilisation of citizens at local and Union levels to debate on concrete issues from the European political agenda and promoting civic participation in the Union policy-making process.

The commissioner did not specify, however, which Polish towns were rejected for ostensibly adopting “LGBTI free zones”. It is likely that they could be found, not exclusively though, in the conservative southeastern part of Poland which largely adopted the “LGBT-ideology free zone”. The numbers concerned, as of September 30, 2019, pertain to various sorts of resolutions, declarations and stance statements regarding the LGBT ideology were taken in 24 municipalities, 18 districts and 4 provinces.

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’LGBT-Ideology free’ not LGBT people-free

It remains overtly true that the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party is totally opposed to LGBT sex education and to same-sex marriage and adoption. It has made the defence of traditional family and Christian values a key part of its election platform.

However, a subtle fact deserves to be stressed in order to spotlight a fallacy in Commissioner Dalli’s tweet. No “LGBT-free zones” were ever proposed. The resolutions that the official referred to had been passed on “LGBT-ideology free zones”, which is a reference to keeping schools free of LGBT instruction in line with parental wishes. These instructions were proposed by Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski in 2019 in the LGBT charter which made provisions for LGBT sex education in schools based on WHO recommendations. This, in turn, had been opposed and protested by a Polish conservative paper “Gazeta Polska” (GP) that distributed stickers with the “LGBT free zone” legend on them in July 2019. The legend was subsequently changed to read “LBGT-ideology free zone” shortly after.

From there on, the usage of the stickers by LGBT ideology sceptics and provocateurs has been capitalised on by the Polish opposition. In Autumn 2019, “Spring” party MEP Robert Biedroń alleged to the EP that there were cafes in Poland where homosexual people were not allowed entry.

Mr Biedroń might have indirectly referred to an episode involving the “LGBT free zone” sticker that had been visible on the window of a “Grill Kramy Dominikańskie” cafe in Kraków. The venue’s owner, Janusz Renke, told niezależ news website: “I have been running this cafe for 28 years and for all these years I have been welcoming everyone with open arms. I have never ever discriminated against anyone. I am just an opponent of the leftist ideology.” The owner of the eatery removed the sticker under left-wing media pressure.

A couple of months ago photos showing road signs with names of towns and additional yellow plaques reading in Polish, English, French and Russian “LGBT-free zone” circulated the web. This did not elude Belgian liberal MEP Guy Verhofstadt’s attention who called on the European Commission to undertake immediate action against Polish authorities. The appearance of the yellow plaques, however, turned out to be an initiative of a leftist activist, not one of the local authorities. The activist undertook the action at towns that he deemed had declared themselves “LGBT-ideology free zones.”

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The Charter of Family Rights

The Charter of Family Rights is a template territorial authority resolution formula that can be easily debated, passed or rejected by local authorities. The legal solution was prepared in March 2019 by the Ordo Iuris Institute for Legal Culture, an independent legal organisation incorporated as a foundation in Poland. The charter includes direct guidelines that render it impossible to allott public funds to projects that undermine the constitution-provided identification of marriage as a relationship between a woman and a man. The document endorses the traditional model of a family and disregards LGBT relations that sympathetic milieus could define as an LGBT family.

Last but not least, the sticker episode played a role in the campaign of the first presidential candidate of the Civic Platform (PO) opposition party Małgorzata Kidawa-Błońska. During her meeting with the Polish diaspora in London, UK, the candidate alleged that there were towns in Poland “where signs banning entry to people of differing sexual orientation could be found.” The candidate clearly mistook the yellow plaques distributed by the aforementioned activist for ones legally posted by the towns’ authorities.

What the towns have been deprived of

The European Commission approved a list of 127 projects within the framework of the “Town Twinning” programme. The authors of the projects will receive a total of EUR 2,324,327 to carry out their project goals. The rules of the programme make towns, town and city authorities, local authorities, committees for the EU partnership and also other local authority-representing charitable organisations eligible for the funding.

The maximum donation that an applying party could hope for amounts to EUR 25,000.