Poland ’s homophobia endangers EU status

KNOXVILLE – News reports from Europe and the United States recently detailed homophobic actions and attitudes emanating from Poland with regard to the refusal of officials in Warsaw to approve the Equality Days Festival planned by a coalition of the three largest GLBT groups there last June. Then Mayor of Warsaw, Lech Kaczynski, announced that not only his refusal to issue permits, but also that he would actually prevent the parade and other festivities from occurring. This refusal was the second consecutive permit refusal by the then Warsaw Mayor.

According to reports by 365gay.com and others, more than 2500 GLBTand supportive residents proceeded with a Pride parade and rally despite their lack of a permit to do so, resulting conflicts with right wing protestors and ensuing arrests of approximately 25 people.

In the following fall election, Mayor Kaczynski was elected President of the Republic of Poland causing concerns regarding their voting status in the European Union (EU.) The EU requires all members to maintain a good record on human rights including rights for citizens with regard to sexual orientation.

Kaczynski’s ultra-right wing party, the Law and Justice Party, led by his twin brother is slated to begin talks with the country’s other right wing party, Civic Platform, with an eye to coalition-building according to a report by Ben Townley on the UK’s Gay.com Web site. This news has sparked fear in the Polish GLBT community with regard to further oppressive restrictions by the Polish government.

East Tennesseans have been particularly interested in the Polish developments after President Bush appointed former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe the Polish ambassador in June 2004. Ashe served as the Mayor of Knoxville for 16 years immediately prior to the election of current Mayor Bill Haslam.

An inquiry to the Polish Embassy did result in a response from Ashe’s Pree Attaché at the American Embassy in Warsaw . It is included below.

Ambassador Ashe is traveling and has asked that I respond to your recent email about the election of Mayor Kaczynski as President of the Republic of Poland.

Certainly, the Embassy reports on anti-gay discrimination in our annual human rights report. I invite you to visit www.state.gov for the most recent report, released in February, 2005.

The Embassy has an ongoing Tolerance Education program where we assist Polish organizations in promoting tolerance in Polish society.

As for the Equality Parade, even though Mayor Kaczynski did not grant it a formal permit, the organizers and participants went ahead and staged the event, which was peaceful and enjoyed police protection.

Finally, Mayor Kaczynski has promised to be the President of all Poles and he is certainly aware of his responsibilities under the Polish constitution and the human rights provisions of European Union membership.

James B. Bond
Press Attaché
American Embassy
Warsaw, Poland

A check of the United States State Department’s Europe and Eurasia: Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2004 – 2005 released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor has absolutely no mention of Poland.

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