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November 30, 2005


I wrote the following article for the new issue of Gay City News -- New York City's largest gay weekly -- in which it appears tomorrow:

Polish_demo_1Pro-gay demonstrations were held in cities all over Poland this past weekend to protest the banning and police repression of a gay March for Equality and Tolerance in Poznan on November 19, in which 68 of some 500 demonstrators were assaulted and arrested. Yet the major U.S. gay organizations -- unlike their European counterparts -- have remained silent on the events in Poland, just as they've largely ignored the anti-gay pogrom in Iran. (Photo above left, pro-gay demonstrators this weekend in Krakow).

Polish_demo_warsaw_1 Despite severe winter weather, thousands of demonstrators joined the weekend Torun_polish_demo demonstrations not only in Warsaw, the capital (photo above left )but in the cities of Gdansk, Elblag, Rzeszow, Lodz, Torun (photo right), Wroclaw, Krakow, and even Poznan itself. The demonstrations were called by a hastily-formed Solidarity With Poznan National Committee; initiated by the Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH), the four-year-old, all-volunteer organization which is Poland’s largest gay group. The Solidarity Committee was co-sponsored by local branches of the Polish Social Democratic Party, the Green Party, the Democratic Party, the Young Socialists, and a raft of human rights, student, and women’s organizations.

In a statement, the Solidarity Committee said that the banning and repression of the previous weekend’s demonstration in Poznan “showed that Poland is not a place where the law is fully respected.” Targeting the pro-gay demonstrators, the statement said, proved that these “citizens are deprived of their right to express their beliefs and ideas , but the authorities let fascist groups and the police attack innocent people.”

In the banned Poznan demonstration, police did not intervene when members of the All All_polish_youth Polish Youth -- the attack-dog militia of the virulently anti-gay, anti-Semitic, extreme-right League of Polish Families party -- threw eggs and projectiles at the gay demonstrators while shouting “Gas the fags!” and “We’ll do to you what Hitler did to the Jews!” Instead the police arrested the gay demonstrators marching despite the ban, who were carrying lighted candles and chanting, “This is a Tomek_1 funeral for democracy.” The secretary-general of the gay group KPH, Tomasz Szypula (right) -- one of the 68 gay demonstrators arrested in Poznan -- said later, “The police treated us like they treat football hooligans.” (Photo above left, skinheads from the All Polish Youth heckle gay demonstrators this weekend in Wroclaw.)

The banning of the Poznan march was testimony to the new, aggressively homophobic climate in Poland since the new national government was elected on October 23. TheLech_kaczynski_hands_raised_3  new Polish President, Lech Kaczynski (right)-- head of the ultraconservative, pro-Catholic Law and Justice Party -- as Mayor of Warsaw had previously banned the capital’s gay pride marches two years in a row, declaring they’d be “sexually obscene” and that he was opposed to “propagating gay orientation.” Those elections also saw two extreme-right, neo-fascist, ultra-homophobic parties -- the peasant-based Self-Defense party and the League of Polish Families -- together rack up nearly a fifth of the vote. Altogether, right-wing parties got 77% of the vote in those Polish elections.

Also last week, a visit to London by Poland’s equally homophobic new Prime Minister, Kazimierz_marcinkiewicz_3 Kasimierz Marcinkiewicz (left), was met with a demonstration co-sponsored by the International Lesbian and Gay Association and the militant British gay rights group OutRage. When Marcinkiewicz arrived for a November 24 speech at Chatham House, he was forced to slink in through a side door to avoid the gay demonstrators. Marcinkiewicz is a fundamentalist Catholic who -- shortly after being named prime minister by the conservative parliamentary coalition led by President Kaczynski’s Law and Justice party -- 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.”

One of the first acts of Marcinkiewicz’s government was to abolish the Office of the Government Plenipotentiary for the Equality of Men and Women, which was Jaroslav_kacyzzki_1 responsible for protecting sexual minorities against discrimination based on sexual orientation. Polish gay groups are concerned that there’s more to come on the new government’s agenda. The new president’s twin brother, Jaroslav Kaczynski (right) -- the de facto head of Poland’s parliament and chief of the Law and Justice party’s parliamentary group -- has previously proposed banning gay men from teaching in the schools.

Amnesty International, in a statement released November 25, warned of the heightened “climate of intolerance in Poland against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community,” and denounced the banning of the previous weekend’s gay march in Poznan as “dictated by intolerance.” In sharp contrast, there has been total silence on Poland’s new official homophobia from the largest U.S. gay groups, the Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Neither has bothered to issue so much as a press release on the banning of the Poznan march or a statement of solidarity with this past weekend’s gay protests.

This weekend’s Poland-wide gay Solidarity With Poznan demonstrations were a success, despite freezing weather. Over 1000 turned out in Warsaw. In Gdansk, where the union Solidarnosc_2 movement Solidarnosc was born 25 years ago -- an act which eventually led to the toppling of Poland’s Communist dictatorship -- Solidarnosc members joined hundreds of gay demonstrators, despite the fact that this march, too, had been banned by the city’s mayor. In Poznan, 300 police outnumbered the demonstrators. Simultaneous demonstrations sponsored by European gay rights organizations were held in front of the Polish embassies in London and Berlin. And earlier in the week in Prague, capital of the Czech Republic, the sponsors of and attendees at the gay film festival Mezipatra joined in a protest at the Polish embassy there, handing in to the embassy a letter denouncing the banning of the Poznan gay march.

A new poll shows that Poland is one of Europe’s most homophobic countries. Released in Prague November 28 by the Czech polling institute CVVM, the four-country poll said 70% of Poles are opposed to gay marriage, compared to 58% of Czechs, and 69% of Slovaks and Hungarians. In the poll, asked if they knew a homosexual person, only 14% of the Poles, 8% of the Hungarians, and 30% of the Slovaks said they did, compared to 43% of the Czechs who knew someone gay. Registered partnerships of gay couples were opposed by 47% of the Poles, 58% of Hungarians, and 53% of Slovaks, but by just 30% of the Czechs.

On November 28, a prominent member of the European Parliament called for the European Union to take legal action against Poland in the wake of the banning of theBaroness_sarah_ludford  Poznan march. Baroness Sarah Ludford (right), the British Liberal Democratic party’s European Justice spokeswoman in the EuroParliament at Strasbourg, demanded stronger EU action against Poland for its homophobia. “Repressive and intolerant behavior is quite rightly condemned when it takes place in a country seeking EU membership. But when it occurs in an existing member state, a blind eye seems to be turned. This is gutless hypocrisy,” she charged.

The MEP for London, Baroness Ludford added that “The Polish situation shows the European_flag_1 need for three things. There should be wider EU gay equality laws going beyond the current coverage of employment rights; a political willingness from Brussels to treat homophobic speech and actions as a severe breach of EU human rights principles; and infringement proceedings for failure to implement specific EU laws on workplace equality.”

Poland is the signatory to two treaties obliging signatories to guarantee all individuals the enjoyment of their human rights without discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. There has been, of course, no protest from the U.S. State Department of Poland’s violations of these two treaties.

For background on Poland's new ultraconservative and homophobic regime, see these previous DIRELAND articles: October 28: "Is Poland's New President Another Putin, or Another Peron?"; October 25, "Poland Could Lose E.U. Rights Over New Leadership's Homophobia"; October 24, "Poland Elects a Hard-Right, Homophobic President" ; November 21, "Poland: A First-Hand Account of an Official Gay-Bashing.:"

The problem of the isolationist attitude and lack of international solidarity on the part of U.S. gay groups -- once again evident in their silence on Poland's gay crisis -- is a serious moral challenge to the gay community. For more on this, see my article for Gay City News, "Iran and the Death of Gay Activism," and Rob Andersons excellent article in The New Republic, "The Quiet Americans: How America's Gay Rights Establishment is Failing Gay Iranians."

CANADA: TORIES WANT TO END LEGAL GAY MARRIAGE -- Today's Toronto Globe and Mail front-pages the news that, in the wake of the successful no-confidence motion that yesterday toppled the scandal-plagued Liberal Party government of Prime Minister Paul Martin, the leader of Canada's conservatives pledged to "restore the traditional definition of marriage." For details, click here.

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Posted by: laptop battery | Oct 12, 2008 10:47:57 PM

"The banning of the Poznan march was testimony to the new, aggressively homophobic climate in Poland since the new national government was elected on October 23."

Shortly, this is BS.

Poznan is NOT like the rest of Poland. Why do you think the marches take place here? The result of the 2005 election has no influence on the city. Poznan and the is a fortress of liberalism and anti-nationalism. Kaczynskis have lost every single election in this city, and they and their party have very low support. Also the mayor is not at all related to the nationalists.

I do not understand what the mayor wanted to achieve by refusing the gay demonstration. This decision could be overturned by any court without a problem, and if I remember correctly, the city council reverted that decision within a week.

Meanwhile, gays decided to ignore the refusal and to assemble anyway. Hence the heavy police presence, all the press coverage and the like. In my opinion it was a mistake from the side of gay groups. They enjoy a relative freedom and peace here, but this is not due to a sympathy towards them, but the general laissez-faire attitude here in the city. Simply do what you want, and leave us alone. Fortunately the disrespectful act of ignoring the law was not received as badly as I thought, so the marches in the following years were both legal and peaceful.

I am sure the perceived negative reception of the march was partially due to the decision not to obey the law. You can't gain support this way in this city. This is not Russia or Eastern Poland, defying the law is not cool.

And as for the handful of rejects who shouted at you, they are just as handful and in any other place. What's wrong with them in Poland is that they are waaaay toooo aggressive, and that will have to be dealt with. Don't believe me? Ask the Smiths in the streets what they think of your march. Their answer will usually be "nothing". They simply don't care.

Privately, I support your right to demonstrate, but take my word and do it the legal way.

Posted by: Michal Borsuk | Aug 2, 2008 5:03:22 AM


Posted by: ds | Oct 25, 2006 6:05:16 AM

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