The Polish LGBTI community has been fighting for marriage equality for years, but three same-sex couples are now taking the fight to another level: they want to establish a legal precedent by taking their cases to the European Court of Human Rights.
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Not really having a choice, many Polish same-sex couples decide to get married abroad. This is exactly the story of Karolina and Hanna, Basia and Lotte, and Mateusz and Miłosz. These three couples decided to take their fight a step further. They asked Polish registry offices to register their union.

This is only the first step of what is expected to be a lengthy process with a finale at the European Court of Human Rights. All of this so that their civil unions will become legally recognized in Poland. If successful, their case might set an important precedent, making the process easier for other same-sex couples in Poland.

"The Polish Constitution does not prohibit same-sex marriage"

- We are set on the fact that we will lose the case before the courts of all instances in Poland. We know it will be a long fight, but I think we will win in Strasbourg. We have the example of Italy, which was legally forced to introduce civil unions in this way. It's a matter of putting pressure on them to take up the cause. I can't imagine that the verdict will be negative because that would go against all the values of the European Union. The only question is when they will do it. That's why we are getting together in groups and we are very much encouraging more same-sex couples to come forward and fight for our common right to have our marriage recognized- says Karolina Skowron-Baka.

Together with her wife Hanna they have already got a refusal from the Warsaw registry office. They appealed the decision to the governor of the Mazovian region and are now waiting for a response. The next step will be taking the case to two instances of court, although the lawyer, who cooperates with the same-sex couples involved in the action, is still checking the possibility of skipping this step and referring the case directly to the Strasbourg tribunal.

Mateusz i Miłosz
Mateusz i Miłosz  Archiwum prywatne

Mateusz Urban and his husband Miłosz, who also wanted to register their union in Warsaw, received a refusal as well. - The letter was two pages long. Among other things, it said that although the marriage was concluded in accordance with German law and is legal in Germany, it cannot be recognized in Poland, because it would be in conflict with the Polish legal order- Mateusz says. He also admits that virtually the entire content of the refusal referred to Article 18 of the Polish Constitution, which reads "marriage, being a union of a man and a woman, as well as the family, motherhood and parenthood, shall be placed under the protection and care of the Republic of Poland".

- Prof. Ewa Łętowska (professor of legal science specializing in civil law and former judge of the Constitutional Tribunal) stresses that this article does not exclude marriage for same-sex couples. It does not explicitly state that husband and wife are the only forms of family. So, there is no need to amend the Constitution. Everything is a matter of legal interpretation, and this is due to political opposition. The Catholic Church plays a significant role here – Mateusz argues.

Does the Polish legal system promote bigamy?

Basia Starska - Wika z żoną w dniu ślubu
Basia Starska - Wika z żoną w dniu ślubu  Archiwum prywatne

Basia Starska - Wika, an activist from Łódź, who has been living in Norway for two years, is awaiting the decision of the Łódź registry office. Her wife Lotte is Norwegian and it is there that they plan to build a life together. But Basia would like their wedding to be recognized in her country of origin as well. She stresses that even though she has moved away, she intends to fight for same-sex couples in Poland to experience the kind of equal rights they can enjoy in Norway.

The couple submitted their application at the Łódź registry office in person and was told right away that it would be rejected. This was not something they expected.

- The paperwork itself is tailored to different-sex marriages. In Warsaw, we see "husband-wife" boxes, but in Łódź, it there is only a "man-woman" box. However, I have the impression that the reception is better than it was a few years ago. There is a little more awareness among officials. There is no longer the kind of hostility that you would encounter in the past- notes Basia.

Mateusz, on the other hand, says that he and Miłosz did not communicate that they were aware of the fact that the law, which requires them to report to a Polish office to get married abroad within 30 days, does not apply to same-sex couples. The clerk repeatedly stressed that it was not her own opinion, but that this is the way it is officially established.

- In this case, can I get a certificate that I am single? - Miłosz asked. The response: yes. When asked if he could then get married for a second time in Poland, this time to a woman, the answer was also positive. - It looks as if the Polish legal order is promoting bigamy within the European Union, because, after all, our wedding is valid abroad- Mateusz pointed out.

„This is the normality we so desperately need"

Karolina, Mateusz, and Basia unanimously admit that in Portugal, Germany, and Norway they did not encounter any difficulties when dealing with wedding-related formalities. The process was relatively simple. The most important thing was a certificate confirming their marital status from a Polish registry office and properly translated documents.

Karolina: - Surprisingly, the hardest part was choosing the country where we would get married. When we checked the possibilities in different EU countries, it turned out that the requirements were very diverse. In some cases, we failed to meet them. For example, we had to live somewhere for a year, or show that we were residing there, paying the bills. In the end, we chose Madeira. One of the reasons was that there is a company called "Say Yes to Madeira" run by a Polish woman, Edyta Garcia Luis, which makes it easier for Poles to organize a wedding there.

Basia, on the other hand, points out that in countries where same-sex marriage is legal, people's attitudes toward LGBTI people are very different. - In Norway, gay couples can adopt children and participate in the in vitro program. But it's not just about legal issues and the mere possibility of marriage. It goes much deeper than that. When the law changes, people's mentality changes as well - she emphasizes and adds:

- There was a shooting in Oslo just one day before the pride parade. I don't know if the target was actually an LGBTI pub, but two people were killed, one of whom was from the LGBTI community, while more people, also LGBTI, were injured. Police suggested that the parade be canceled for safety reasons. The entire country responded by putting up rainbow flags on government offices. Even the King spoke out, admitting that he and his family are horrified by the events, that we need to support each other and how important equality is. If injustice happens, the solidarity is greater. People don't stand against each other, but on each other's side. I, a lesbian who grew up in Poland, am constantly moved by this, although, after all, this is how things should actually be. This is the normality we so desperately need.

***

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    They have legalized nothing as in Poland there is no such thing as same-sex marriage...
    There is no place for such abominations in Poland.
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