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Located in the Małopolska region in southern and south-eastern Poland, Tuchów belongs to a group of municipalities which since 2019 had adopted resolutions, positions or declarations explicitly discriminating against LGBT+ people. Taken together, districts where sexual-minority rights are not respected cover a third of the country’s area, most of them in the south-east. “Radicals seeking to ignite a cultural revolution in Poland are attacking the freedom of speech, the innocence of our children, and try to undermine the authority of traditional institutions such as family and school. That is why we must be persistent in defending our local community! Tuchów shall be free from LGBT+ ideology”- local council members wrote in a 2019 resolution.

Authors of similar resolutions deny acting with any discriminatory intent against sexual minorities, claiming their aim is only to protect the traditional family model. – Resolutions like these discriminate against non-heteronormative people and push them to the margins of a given local community. They illegally restrict civil liberties and rights, discouraging LGBT+ people from staying in places where such resolutions have been adopted- the Commissioner for Human Rights, Adam Bodnar, protested.

Several European cities decided to end partnership programs with their Polish counterparts because of their homophobic policies. Back in July, anti-LGBT+ resolutions drew the attention of the European Commission. The EU Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, informed the public that six town twinning project applications involving Polish authorities that adopted "LGBT free zones" or "family rights" resolutions were rejected and the local governments won’t be receiving any funds within the project’s framework. Additionally, municipalities which had adopted such resolutions might be facing further financial consequences in the future.

-Every European citizen has both the right to a family life and the right to be treated equally, regardless of his or her sexual orientation or declared gender identity- the EU Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, said in an interview with Gazta Wyborcza.

- Today, let me say this: I stand with you. In this regard, I myself am a citizen of Tuchów and of every other municipality facing persecution because of some ideas conceived in the ideologically heated heads of European Commission officials – the Minister of Justice, Zbigniew Ziobro, said on Tuesday. His words were directed at two local council members who attended the press conference organized by the Ministry of Justice. –the municipality of Tuchów gives a good example that I hope will spread all over the country- Ziobro added.

The Minister stated that Tuchów had lost PLN 70-80 because of “ideological harassment”. –I have good news for this and any other municipality subject to similar ideological harassment in the future. The Ministry of Justice has positively reviewed an application for financial support to Tuchów and decided to grant the municipality a sum three times higher than that taken away by Ms. Dalli - he added.

Joined by other officials, Ziobro handed the local council members a symbolic check worth PLN 250.000. The money, he said, will be used to support volunteer fire departments. The resources come from the so-called Justice Fund- a multimillion aid programme controlled by the Minister himself.

The Justice Fund is financed from resources seized from criminal offenders. “The Ministry uses the money to support causes that are good and smart”- the Ministry’s press office said while introducing the Fund. Its declared goal is to provide crime victims and their relatives and partners with post-release assistance and the necessary financial help. Meanwhile, the Ministry is using the Fund to finance voluntary fire departments. “This is not the purpose of the funds activity”- the Supreme Audit Office stated in 2018. “The crime victims support fund is not supporting victims” – it concluded.

„They are rewarding homophobes with cash” – said Eliza Rutynowska, a lawyer working with the Civil Development Forum (FOR), commenting on Ziobro’s words.

We asked Ziobro a couple of questions

Subsidies from the Justice Fund should be awarded by way of competitions and a call for proposals, with their results being evaluated by a qualified committee. –When did the district apply for financial support within the Justice Fund framework? Who evaluated the application? Did the municipality apply following a recommendation by the Justice Ministry? – we asked the ministry and are still awaiting a response.

Ziobro said that his ministry considered Tuchów as a potential recipient of the financial subsidies given “the district’s strong commitment to supporting the polish family, and a well-functioning, loving family is the best preventive measure against criminal behaviour”.

-I want one thing to be clear: Tuchów’s council members will continue to stand by their convictions. We will not back off because we believe that the Polish tradition and Christian values are priceless- a local councillor and member of the Law and Justice party, Mateusz Janiczek, thanked Minister Ziobro.

Ziobro is putting Prime Minister Morawiecki on the spot

The Minister of Justice announced he will do his best to support every single local government facing a similar situation. What about the other five? – We are in the process of trying to identify other local administrations that could use our help and reach out to them- he said. Ziobro also announced his plans to address the Prime Minister and issue a request to create a „permanent support mechanism” for districts „harassed” by the European Commission. – We need to make sure these districts know the Polish state is standing by their side- he said.  

Ziobro’s Tuesday appeal is yet another one of his recent attempt at putting Prime Minister Morawiecki on the spot regarding ideological issues. Earlier, the Minister of Justice demanded that Morawiecki takes decisive steps in reaction to the decisions of the European Commission. It was Ziobro who pushed for Poland’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, preferred to let the Constitutional Tribunal inspect the issue first.

On Tuesday, Ziobro denied allegations linking his actions to the announced efforts of reconstructing the government and the ongoing feud over political influence within the ruling camp. He admitted that his party, Solidarna Polska, proposed the remaining coalition partners to make ideological issues the central theme of the ruling camp’s political agenda for the coming months. –When, if not now. We’ve just concluded another election cycle, the next one’s in three years. Right now, our goal is to concentrate on issues regarding our identity and fulfilling the promises we gave our voters. Choosing us as their representatives, voters knew we support a traditional family model and not the LGBT ideology – he said.

-If things continue at this rate, in an effort to stand out among the other right-wing coalition partners, Ziobro will reward anyone who brings him a gay man’ scalp and leaves it at the Ministry’s doorstep. I understand that what we’re seeing is a brutal race to become Kaczynski’s successor, but using methods like these is simply a disgrace- Krzysztof Śmiszek, an MP from the Left party, commented.

***

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