In a world where there are still countries that serve the death penalty for homosexuality, Europe appears to hold more tolerant values in comparison. However, the continent has its problematic elements, with Poland falling behind.
In Poland, the upcoming presidential election has given rise to anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric as candidates try to gain votes. The current president, Andrzej Duda, is running for re-election. As part of his campaign, Duda has pledged to ‘protect children from LGBT ideology’, which sets him far apart from his opponent Rafał Trzaskowski, who has proved himself to be an active ally of the LGBTQ+ community. Trzaskowski’s progressive ideals are evident through the introduction of LGBTQ+ education in the schools of Warsaw, where he is currently mayor, and his participation in Warsaw’s Parada Równości (equality parade).
The rights of LGBTQ+ individuals appear to have emerged as a key theme in the campaigns of each candidate – there are strict differences in the beliefs held by the two frontrunners. On Saturday 13th June 2020, Duda, who is predicted to keep his position as president, claimed that the LGBT ‘ideology’ is ‘worse than communism’. He goes further, explaining how his parents’ generation did not ‘struggle to cast off communism’ for the current generation to accept a new ideology which he believes is ‘even more destructive’. His view is adopted by multiple other conservative politicians in Poland, with one claiming that LGBTQ+ individuals are not people, they are simply an ‘ideology’. Across the country, the anti-LGBTQ+ behaviours exercised by the government and other individuals has had a clear impact on the LGBTQ+ community. A study conducted by the University of Warsaw found that more than 67% of people identifying as LGBTI in Poland had endured some type of violence, while 70% of teenagers identifying as LGBTI had experienced suicidal thoughts. The issue spans further than the attitudes practised by the government of Poland. In the city of Białystok, a recent Parada Równości was met by anti-LGBTQ+ protestors who bellowed insults and attacked participants while they were parading for their rights.
When considering Polish law, it is easy to believe that LGBTQ+ individuals share the same rights as heterosexual people. In Poland, despite the current pledges by Andrzej Duda’s to change this, LGBTQ+ individuals are allowed to serve in the Polish Armed Forces, transgender individuals are allowed to change their legal gender if they follow certain requirements, and Polish law has ruled against the overt discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals. However, the problem is deeper than it appears. Poland is one of six European countries to have made same-sex marriage illegal. In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that it is illegal to deny services on the basis of sexual orientation. Shortly after the ruling, however, a judgement was made in favour of a printer who refused to print LGBT posters, claiming that ‘workers have a right to act according to their conscience’. Additionally, various Polish municipalities have been unofficially declared as LGBT free zones, with almost 100 local governments voting to protect solely heterosexual rights. After campaigns to ensure that the nuclear family is the only family promoted as appropriate, homophobic stickers and print-outs have been displayed around certain areas of Poland. Activists have described these zones as being part of an ‘Atlas of Hate’, and some, like Bart Staszewski, have taken it upon themselves to try and replace the homophobic print-outs with posters encouraging tolerance. This positive activism has received international support. The European Commission, for example, have described the LGBTQ+ free zones as a breach of basic human rights.
However, should the Polish people have the right to argue against the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals? Catholicism is Poland’s official religion. Many people campaigning against the so-called ‘LGBT ideology’ are arguing that the promotion of LGBT propaganda is against the Catholic values of the country. The archbishop of Kraków has even expressed the idea that they are experiencing a ‘rainbow plague.’ Matuesz Marzoch, a member of a conservative religious group, has described the LGBTQ+ free zones in Poland as a ‘good step forward in fighting against LGBT ideology.’ He describes that the next step should be banning LGBT propaganda as ‘it is not okay, it is not how we were created’ according to ‘faith, nature and traditions.’ Polish catholicism is clearly a significant influence in the conservative views held by portions of the population.
In a religion that promotes love and acceptance, is it acceptable to hold hatred for people simply due to their identity?