Follow the big issues that shape Polish politics and society by signing up to our weekly newsletter "News from Poland: Democracy at Stake". It allows you to stay up to speed on developments concerning the ongoing assault on democratic institutions, rule of law, and human rights in Poland.
The resolution was backed by 492 MEPs. 141 voted against, while 46 abstained.
All 27 MEPs representing Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party opposed the resolution, while the remaining Polish voices in the EU parliament were in favor (Adam Jarubas from the Polish People’s Party was the only one who abstained from voting). Members of the Hungarian Fidesz and the far-right Fratelli d'Italia party were also against the resolution.
Homophobia knows no borders – preventing discrimination is a must
The declaration is a symbolic stance against Poland’s "LGBT-free zones" and an announcement by the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who - after withdrawing his MEPs from the European People's Party faction – declared his plans to build a "new European right" for all those who oppose migrants, multiculturalism and "have not fallen victim to the to the LGBTQ madness, and want to defend Europe’s Christian traditions”.
Although the cases of Poland and Hungary are certainly the most prominent and frequently discussed ones, the deterioration of LGBTQ rights in the EU is a much broader issue and cannot be limited to these two countries alone. Recently, in Belgium, a 42-year-old gay man was murdered for homophobic reasons.
- I am a Christian Democrat, married to my husband for 15 years. I am a mother of four children and am proud to be a southern European. I have great respect for tradition, and I also respect our values, all values - and that's why I say that everyone and everywhere in Europe can love who they want and be who they want. This European Parliament will stand up for your freedom in every town and every village- declared Roberta Metsola, speaking on behalf of the European People's Party on Wednesday.
Most of the statements delivered during the debate that preceded Thursday's vote were in a similar vein.
In contrast, Polish MEP Ryszard Legutko (Law and Justice) spoke of the "absurd text of the resolution" and the "great ideological machine" which the EU parliament has allegedly turned into.
Still a long way to go
In the resolution, MEPs urge the Commission to “refrain from narrowly interpreting the principle of the rule of law” and “not hesitate to use all tools, including infringement procedures, the Rule of Law Framework, Article 7 TEU, as well as the recently adopted Regulation on the protection of the Union’s budget in case of generalised deficiencies as regards the rule of law in the Member States, in order to address violations of the fundamental rights of LGBTIQ people everywhere in the Union”.
For months, multiple NGOs have insisted that the Commission initiate such proceedings against Poland. But the EU Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli, who was behind the suspension of relatively small grants to several Polish towns that established "LGBT ideology-free zones", did not respond to calls for more decisive action against Poland during the debate in the European Parliament.
- This resolution is one step. But our battle is far from over- said Terry Reintke, representing the Greens. Ms. Dalli revealed that the European Commission wants to propose the inclusion of homophobic crimes and hate speech in the catalog of "EU crimes" by the end of this year. The EU treaty allows for the adoption of such directives on "minimum standards relating to the definition of certain criminal offenses and sanctions" with cross-border implications.
Moreover, already last year, Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the Commission, has announced her intention to submit legislation on the mutual recognition of parental rights in different EU countries. Such a reform would require a unanimous vote of all the 27 EU member states, but Brussels is still waiting for the CJEU to issue a ruling on that matter. As a matter of fact, the Court in Luxembourg is now considering a precedent-setting preliminary question on whether Bulgaria must legally recognize a birth certificate issued in Spain to a same-sex couple. The judgment is expected in the coming months.
Should the CJEU’s decision be affirmative, it will be based on EU's right to freedom of movement. In 2018, the CJEU has already ruled that Romania (and therefore the rest of the EU countries where same-sex couples are not legally recognized) must grant a right of residence to the husband of its citizen. The issue concerned an American who married a Romanian citizen in Belgium.
Violent consequences of state-sanctioned homophobia
The discussion about the need to protect the fundamental rights of sexual minorities in the EU happens amid an increasingly homophobic atmosphere in Poland sanctioned by the right-wing government and the catholic church.
On February 17, a same-sex couple has been attacked on the street in Warsaw. One of the men was stabbed in the back with a knife. Maciej and Vitaliy, the victims, claim that before attacking them the perpetrator screamed: “stop holding hands! Not in front of the children!”. When Maciej replied that there were no children around and that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with holding hands, the man asked Vitaliy whether he agrees. When he confirmed, the perpetrator stabbed him in the back and ran away. Fortunately, none of his vital organs were damaged.
The attacked men received legal assistance from the Center for Monitoring Racist and Xenophobic Behavior. Konrad Dulkowski, a lawyer associated with the organization, reported on Facebook that the police are still looking for the perpetrator on charges of "exposure to direct danger of loss of life or serious bodily harm".
-This shows the level of discrimination against LGBT+ people in Poland. This man decided to attack because he thought it’s his duty. After all, he heard the president, ministers, MPs, or bishops that such people are the 'rainbow plague'. The attack was a direct consequence of a constantly repeated hate propaganda- Mr. Dulkowski wrote.
Poland prevents a French Minister from visiting an "LGBT-free zone”
Last Monday, the news website Politico reported that the French Minister for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, was denied access to one of the so-called “LGBT-free zones” while on an official visit to Poland.
Earlier, he had repeatedly announced his intention to visit one of such "zones” in Kraśnik. However, according to minister Beaune, Polish authorities did not allow him to go there. -Polish authorities recently indicated to me that they weren’t capable of planning this visit, and I profoundly regret it. It is a decision that I deplore- he said.
The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs denies the information.
Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about the coronavirus pandemic for you.
They are on the front lines in 25 Polish cities. They work on the ground, reporting from hospitals and airports.
We have decided to open online access to our news stories and special guides focused on the issue of public health, for free.
The access to information should be equal for all.
Wybierz prenumeratę, by czytać to, co Cię ciekawi
Wyborcza.pl to zawsze sprawdzone informacje, szczere wywiady, zaskakujące reportaże i porady ekspertów w sprawach, którymi żyjemy na co dzień. Do tego magazyny o książkach, historii i teksty z mediów europejskich. Zrezygnować możesz w każdej chwili.