Lech Kaczynski, former Warsaw mayor, recently elected president
Elections in Poland, completed with the presidential run-off on October 23, have resulted in a new homophobic government committed to using state power to prevent gays from “infecting” others with homosexuality, as the country’s new prime minister puts it.
The danger to Polish gays is so serious that, just two days after the election of Lech Kaczynski as Poland’s new president, the European Union issued a public warning to Poland that it could lose its voting rights within the E.U. if it violates the organization’s commitment to gay rights.
Kaczynski, who heads the hard-right Law and Justice Party, is a notorious homophobe who, as mayor of Warsaw, banned that city’s Gay Pride March two years in a row. The march this year occurred on June 11, the same day a monument was unveiled to General Stefan Rowecki, a leader of Poland’s anti-Nazi underground army during World War II. Kaczynski sneered that having a gay march on that day was “a joke” and that he was opposed to “propagating gay orientation.” But despite the ban, some 2,500 Poles joined the march.
Kacyznki’s twin brother, Jaroslaw—who heads the Law and Justice Party’s parliamentary group—wants gay men to be banned from teaching. And for the post of prime minister, the conservative parliamentary coalition led by the Law and Justice Party chose Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, a fundamentalist Catholic. Shortly after being named prime minister, Marcinkiewicz declared homosexuality “unnatural,” adding, “The family is natural, and the state must stand guard over the family.”
Marcinkiewicz went on to say that if a homosexual “tries to infect others with their homosexuality, then the state must intervene in this violation of freedom.”
All this explains why, on October 25, the European Union’s Justice Commission issued a formal warning to Poland against violating the civil rights of gay people. As the British daily The Guardian reported under the headline, “Polish Leaders’ Anti-Gay Stance Threatens E.U. Voting Rights,” the spokesman for the Justice Commission, Friso Roscam Abbing, bluntly warned the new government that it must abide by Article 6 of the Treaty of Nice, which says that all E.U. member states must protect minority rights. A failure to comply could trigger Article 7, which allows the E.U. to deprive a member state of voting rights if it is in “serious breach” of its human rights obligations.
At the same time, the leader of the Socialist bloc in the European Parliament—with 201 Eurodeputies, the second largest political force in that legislative body—issued a similar warning. Martin Schultz, a deputy from Germany’s Social Democratic Party who heads the bloc, told the British daily The Independent that Kaczynski is “on probation” on the gay question, adding: “I hope the president will be a different kind of person to the [one we saw as] candidate.”
Not a word of all this made it into the mainstream U.S. press and gay groups here have been silent on the new Polish government. The British gay rights campaign OutRage condemned the new Kaczynski regime, and pointed out just how dangerous unpunished anti-gay actions by it would be.
“When countries apply for membership of the E.U., they are expected to commit to a comprehensive human rights package as a precondition,” said OutRage spokesman Brett Lock. “If one country is allowed to trample on the rights of its LGBT citizens in such a visible and fundamental way, it sets a bad precedent. Other E.U. countries with strong conservative and right-wing religious lobbies could use the fact that Poland has been not been censured for violating the civil rights of its lesbian and gay communities to pressure for similar exemptions. These exemptions could ultimately include employment rights, partnership rights, and legal protection from harassment and hate-crimes,” Lock warned.
Underscoring the urgency of the Polish situation, some 200 people, including representatives of many European gay groups in Paris for the biennial conference of the International Gay and Lesbian Association, demonstrated in front of the Polish Embassy in France last Saturday. Among the speakers was Tomasz Szypula, representing the largest Polish gay organization, the four-year-old, all-volunteer KPH (Kampania Przeciw Homofobii, or Campaign Against Homophobia), who said that “Poland is sensitive about its image abroad, and the Polish media do report on appeals to vigilance against homophobia in Poland from elsewhere in Europe—even if it is often only to criticize those protests,” the daily e-bulletin of the French gay magazine Tetu reported.
ILGA’s secretary-general, Kursad Kahramanoglu, told the crowd, “We will bring Poland to account before all the institutions of the European Union, to remind Poland of its responsibilities to assure the rights of its gay citizens.”
The threat to Polish gays has also spurred on the organization of a Europe-wide alliance by gay caucuses in Europe’s Socialist and Social Democratic parties. This past weekend, a meeting of Eurosocialist gay groups was held at the French Socialist Party’s headquarters in Paris, hosted by the French group Homosexualites et socialisme. The gathering included representatives of gay caucuses from nine European Democratic Socialist parties in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Spain, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Sweden.
The purpose of the meeting was to create a new, cross-national alliance of gay Socialists that will unify lobbying and pressure for enforcement and expansion of gay rights throughout Europe. That task is considered crucial, since Eastern Europe countries recently admitted into the European Union, such as Poland, and countries whose E.U. applications are pending, such as Turkey, don’t have a gay rights tradition, or civil rights movements as well-organized as those in Western Europe. The gay Eurosocialists’ meeting was addressed by former French Culture Minister Jack Lang and former Economics and Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn, both leading candidates for the French Socialist Party’s 2007 presidential nomination.
Doug Ireland can be reached through his blog, DIRELAND, at http://direland.typepad.com/direland/.