On June 15, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal civil rights law protects gay, lesbian and transgender workers. The landmark ruling will extend protections to millions of workers nationwide and is a defeat for the Trump administration, which argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that bars discrimination based on sex did not extend to claims of gender identity and sexual orientation. This is a huge victory for the LGBTQI community in my adopted homeland.
Meanwhile in Poland, my homeland of origin, the Polish President Andrzej Duda accused the LGBT rights movement of promoting a viewpoint more harmful than communism and said he agreed with another conservative politician who stated that “LGBT is not people, it’s an ideology.”
Gay rights are again emerging as a key campaign theme in the presidential election. Sadly, this is not a new development. The anti-LGBTQI sentiments were a big part of the parliamentary election campaign in 2019 when Jarosław Kaczyński, the current leader of the the nationalist conservative ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, called “LGBT ideology” an imported “threat to Polish identity, to our nation, to its existence and thus to the Polish state.”
“Hands off our children!” said Kaczyński — implying that “LGBT ideology” threatens the morality and health of young Poles and stands in sharp contrast with the supposedly Christian values and principles that form a basis of Polish traditional culture.
Duda, backed by PiS, is running for his second term against Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski, who has called for tolerance for gays and lesbians. He has also advocated to integrate sex education and LGBT issues into school curricula, in accordance with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. Kaczyński likened these plans to “an attack on the family” and “an attack on children.” Duda vowed to protect family values by banning education surrounding LGBT issues.
Christian values are a key PiS promise to its electorate.The Polish Catholic Church supports the anti-LGBTQI political agenda defying Pope Francis' call to step into the lived experiences of others, to prioritize listening and personal encounters with members of the LGBTQI community over finger-wagging denunciations. Unfortunately, the Polish clergy has ignored Pope Francis and called him a heretic. Again, not for the first time. Most of the clergy had a similar reaction to the Pope's call to welcome the Stranger and offer hospitality to refugees and asylum seekers.
Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski reaffirmed Christian family values at the heart of Duda’s re-election campaign, saying foreign “ideologies” were undermining the institution of marriage.The PiS argues that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) “ideology” is an invasive foreign influence undermining traditional values in the staunchly Catholic nation.
Duda cinched his position on LGBTQI issues by signing a new policy called the "Family Card" (Karta Rodziny). The new policy reaffirmed that family is based on marriage between a man and a woman and aimed at raising children.
This emphasis on the strictly heterosexual nuclear family has been manifested in the declaration of “LGBT-free zones” by the marshals of a number of regions in the south east of the country. The first “LGBT--free zone” was established on March 26, 2020 in Świdnik, just outside of Lublin. This was accompanied by the conservative newspaper Gazeta Polska distributing “LGBT-free zone” stickers to readers, later withdrawn following an international outcry.
The European Parliament has condemned the LGBT-free zone resolutions, saying they are discriminatory and undermine LGBT rights. Local conservative politicians have also tried to ban pride parades across Poland on the grounds that they pose a threat to public security. In most cases, the courts overturned the bans. However, the court orders did not stop far-right activists from attacking equality parades. Unprecedented levels of violence took place last summer during the pride parade in Białystok.
The European Union has been condemning homophobia in Poland since 2007. Just this week, the European Commission Vice-President Vera Jourova, who is in charge of values and transparency, has again criticized Polish authorities and their treatment of the LGBT rights movement, but so far we have not seen much from the EU beyond words. There needs to be a tangible action from the EU.