Polish town votes to stay 'LGBT-free zone' despite global criticism

Tuesday, 22 September 2020 17:10 GMT

A sticker with words "LGBT-free zone" distributed in weekly conservative magazine "Gazeta Polska" is pictured in Warsaw, Poland July 24, 2019. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

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Krasnik voted to stay "free from 'LGBT' ideology", as Poland has come under increasing criticism globally over LGBT+ rights

By Rachel Savage

LONDON, Sept 22 (Openly) - Councillors in eastern Poland voted narrowly on Tuesday to keep a motion declaring their town "free from LGBT ideology", as international pressure grows on dozens of Polish municipalities that have made similar declarations.

The mayor's office in Krasnik said councillors had voted 11 to nine to keep the symbolic anti-LGBT+ motion that was passed in May 2019, which declared that the town would defend itself from "radicals striving for a cultural revolution".

Tuesday's vote on whether to repeal the motion followed an announcement by Norway last week that it would not grant funding to any of the nearly 100 Polish municipalities that have issued LGBT-free resolutions.

Bartosz Staszewski, a campaigner against the so-called LGBT-free zones, said the decision was against the best interests of Krasnik's roughly 35,000 residents.

"I just hope that this is the most expensive... act in Krasnik's history," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone. "The citizens of these cities are losing because of the path (politicians) choose."

Elsewhere, the northern district of Sztum voted to repeal a resolution supporting a "Charter of Family Rights", councillor Leszek Sarnowski said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

No one at the municipality could immediately be reached to comment. LGBT+ rights campaigners had said Sztum's charter was anti-LGBT+ because it only supported families that included a married husband and wife.

Norway's foreign minister said on Sept. 14 that Krasnik and other districts with anti-LGBT+ statements would not be getting grants from a 100-million-euro programme for small and medium-sized Polish cities funded by Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein.

The city, which would have been eligible to apply for up to 10 million euros, has received about 7 million euros from the European Union in the last two years, a spokesman for Krasnik Mayor Wojciech Wilk said by email.

He distanced the town's executive from the vote, saying the resolution was purely symbolic and that there were no specific regulations negatively affecting LGBT+ people.​

The Polish embassy in the United States said on Tuesday there were no LGBT-free zones in Poland, responding to a tweet by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who said they had "no place in the European Union or anywhere in the world".

"The Polish Government is committed to the rule of law, equal rights and social inclusion. There is no place for discrimination in our societies," the embassy said in the tweet.

Last week, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on the EU to take action against Poland for rolling back LGBT+ rights and compromising judicial independence, including potentially denying it funding from the bloc.

Earlier that week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen condemned "LGBT-free zones", calling them "humanity-free zones". (Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by Helen Popper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.

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