Polish town declares it is no longer an ‘LGBT+ free zone’

Photo by Hugo C. Pires

By Lois Barker
Sub-edited by Jasmine Wing

A town in Poland has become the first in the country to reverse a decision to become an “LGBT+ free zone”, after an international outcry at the nearly 100 municipalities in the country which issued the “resolutions”.

Councillors in Nowa Dęba, a town of 11,000 in south-east Poland, voted to undo the 2019 ruling which declared the region “free from LGBT+ ideology”.

The resolution, which is rooted in a religious conservative interpretation of the “traditional” family life, showed the town’s determination to “defend against aggressive, deception and harmful LGBT ideology” and so-called “homo-propaganda”.

A vote of 10 out of the 15 councillors voted in favour of withdrawing the resolution, one abstained, and the remaining four attended the meeting but did not vote.

The chairman Damian Diektiarenko, who submitted the motion in revoking the declaration, said that the council’s intentions had been “misunderstood”. He said, “we cannot allow anyone to tarnish the image of the commune by using this declaration”.

Bart Staszewski, a Polish gay rights activist and filmmaker who worked to highlight the “LGBT+ free zones said on Twitter “Council members of Nowa Dęba decided to withdraw the LBGT-free zone bill they declared in late 2019. That is great!”

Kuba Gawron, the organiser of equality marches in the Polish city of Rzeszów, has said he has contacted other local authorities with the hope they will overturn similar resolutions. He told The Independent “When the councillors adopted this resolution, they seemed to think it would only reach their local voters, they did not expect that the topic would become international. “That’s goof” the councillors repealed the shameful resolution, but unfortunately they don’t see anything homophobic in it”.

Polish LGBT+ rights group Stop Bzdurom gave a statement to The Independent saying “The resignation of one of the many municipalities does not change the fact that these resolutions are still being introduced. At the present moment, the right-wing government has faced powerful resistance from the lesbian and gay community and is also facing powerful resistance from women and those fighting for abortion on demand. We fear that the scapegoat of the coming year will be the transgender community”.

At least 100 municipalities or regions, mostly in conservative southeastern Poland, have passed declarations that vowed to stop “LGBT+ ideology” or adopted “family chargers” which backed heterosexual unions.

The declarations form part of an unprecedented assault on LGBT+ rights within Poland which has gained momentum since 2019 with the establishment of anti-gay “zones”, activists have said.

In one case a Polish newspaper distributed stickers which homophobic slogans and crossed-out the Pride flag, in another, participants of a Pride rally in the city of Białystok needed to be defended by riot police after being attacked by a far-right group with bottles and stones.

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen spoke on the subject saying “LGBTQI-free zones are humanity free zones. And they have no place in our union”.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) have called on Polish authorities to “stop trying to silence activists who support LGBT+ rights”, they warned an “overly broad” blasphemy law violates the freedom of expression and signals the “further deterioration of the rule of law in Poland”.

Senior LGBT+ rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, Kyle Knight said: “Scapegoating and targeting a vulnerable minority is becoming a routine and nasty part of the government’s playbook, with dangerous repercussions for human rights”.

Andrzej Duda, Poland’s president, made the protection of “traditional families” a key campaign theme during their successful re-election.

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