- An open letter, signed by 50 ambassadors and NGO leaders, asked the Polish government to respect LGBT rights.
- The Polish Government responded by denying the implied discrimination exists.
- Poland has been deemed the "worst place to be gay" in the EU in spite of this.
Of all the countries in Europe to have a right-wing, authoritarian turn over the last few years, one would have thought Poland to be one of the least likely candidates.
After enduring a brutal invasion by Nazi Germany, suffering under the military regime imposed on them, and seeing millions of their countrymen die, Poland experienced fifty years of soviet-style dictatorship which ended only with the revolutions of 1989. Few nations have endured so much in living memory.
Despite these hard-won lessons, Poland has taken a turn towards authoritarianism over the last few years. As with all such turns, an enemy is designated as the implausible source of potential national decline and a threat to a decent way of life. In this case, it is LGBT+ individuals.
The stigmatization of LGBT+ individuals in Poland has been increasingly vicious, with several provinces, covering nearly a third of the country, having declared themselves “LGBT Free Zones.” While of dubious legality and mostly unenforceable, the declarations seek to limit things such as pride parades by declaring the polity in opposition to “LGBT ideology.” Despite the limited legal ramifications of these declarations, life for LGBT people in these zones can be unpleasant.
In response to this, more than 50 signatories, consisting primarily of ambassadors to Poland, have endorsed an open letter speaking to the need for all people to be able to enjoy their rights and the duties of governments to protect them.
Organized by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Belgium in Poland, the open letter was signed by the Ambassadors of 43 nations representing most of Europe and all of continental North America, as well as several countries from Asia, Africa, and South America. Representatives of various international organizations, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, also signed.
The letter pays tribute to those working for LGBT+ rights in Poland and affirms the dignity found in each person “as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.” It goes on to remind the reader that “respect for these fundamental rights, which are also enshrined in OSCE commitments and the obligations and standards of the Council of Europe and the European Union as communities of rights and values, obliges governments to protect all citizens from violence and discrimination and to ensure they enjoy equal opportunities.”
It ends with the declaration, “Human rights are universal and everyone, including LGBT+ persons, are entitled to their full enjoyment. This is something that everyone should support.”
The American Ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher, retweeted the letter and added, “Human Rights are not an ideology – they are universal. 50 Ambassadors and Representatives agree.”
The Polish Government was less than pleased with the letter and its implications.
The Prime Minister of Poland, Mateusz Morawiecki, rejected the letter and its implications, saying “nobody needs to teach us tolerance, because we are a nation that has learned such tolerance for centuries and we have given many testimonies to the history of such tolerance.”
This sort of rebuttal is nothing new; just last week, when American Presidential Candidate Joe Biden tweeted that “LGBT-free zones’ have no place in the European Union or anywhere in the world,” the Polish Embassy in the United States was quick to say the tweet was based on inaccurate information, to reassure the world that there are no such zones, and to restate their belief there is no place for discrimination in society.
A quick fact check demonstrates otherwise. Several places in Poland have declared themselves to be “LGBT free zones,” violence inspired by anti-LGBT+ propaganda has taken place, leading government figures have declared homosexuality to be a “threat to Polish identity, to our nation, to its existence and thus to the Polish state,” and the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda has declared the LGBT movement to be more dangerous than Communism. Surveys show nearly a third of Poland’s people believe in a grand conspiracy against them involving “gender ideology.“
It is also worth repeating that Poland has been declared the worst place in the European Union for gay rights. Same-sex unions of any kind, including civil unions, are still illegal, and gay couples have no right to adopt children. Laws against hate crimes and conversion therapy are also notoriously lacking. Though to their credit, gay men and bisexuals can donate blood in Poland with greater ease then they can in the United States.
Despite having a first-hand understanding of the dangers of authoritarianism and intolerance than most nations, some in Poland continue to use the LGBT+ community as a boogeyman. While it is not the first time such things have been done, perhaps it will be one of the last.