23rd January 2008 – PinkNews
Poland defiant over gay adoptions
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
Following yesterday’s ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that gay people are entitled to adopt, a leading member of the governing political party in Poland has said they will defy the ruling. The deputy speaker of the Parliament, Stefan Niesiolowski, is a member of the Citizen’s Platform (PO). "The Court can go on and make a ruling, it still won’t be enforced in Poland," he said. "We will defend ourselves because it’s unthinkable that homosexuals would adopt children."
Legal scholars have backed his position, claiming that the Court has no power to change rulings from Polish courts. The European Court of Human Rights is not an EU institution, but rather is a creation of the Council of Europe. The court enforces the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. It considers complaints of human rights violations committed by states who are members of the European Council. The Court ruled yesterday that refusing gay couples the right to adopt a child because of their sexual orientation is discriminatory and in breach of the European Convention.
In the case of E.B. v France the Court held by ten votes to seven that there had been a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) in conjunction with Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. Ms. E.B. is a lesbian nursery school teacher who has been living with another woman since 1990. She applied for approval as a possible adoptive parent in February 1998, but her application was rejected. In June 2002, the highest administrative court in France upheld the rejection of her application.
Polish gay rights activists were pleased with the verdict. Robert Biedron, president of the Campaign Against Homophobia, said: "It’s a milestone. This decision prevents administrators of various countries from denying LGB people adoption which has happened in many places. I am shocked of the statements of some politicians who are trying to deny power of the European Court."
93% of Poles are against adoption by homosexuals according to a recent opinion poll. Gay activists in Poland were dismayed that the country’s newly-elected government are to continue the policy of opposition to the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights. Before coming to power in November Donald Tusk had signalled he would sign up to the charter, which broadly mirrors the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.
Former Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski of the Law and Justice party had claimed that Poland was "culturally different" from their EU partners, especially when it came to the rights of LGBT people and the use of the death penalty, and refused to sign up. In a TV debate during the campaign Mr Tusk pledged to sign Poland up to the EU Charter. However, in an address to the Polish parliament just atfter becoming Prime Minister, Tusk said he will honour the commitment of the previous government and join the UK as the only nations in the 27-member EU to opt out. The charter became legally binding on EU institutions such as the European Court of Justice as part of the new Reform Treaty agreed by the EU heads of government in Lisbon. The treaty needed a two-thirds majority vote in the Polish parliament to become law, which required the Law and Justice party to support it.
For this reason the government decided to retain the opt-out. "Poland is not going to protect its citizens on equal level as 25 other EU member states," commented Tomasz Szypula, Secretary General of Campaign Against Homophobia. "In Poland there’s no anti-hate speech, anti-hate crime, anti-discriminatory laws which mention sexual orientation and now there won’t be the Charter of Fundamental Rights."
10th March 2008 – PinkNews
Poles appeal for funds to establish LGBT centre
by Gavin Lambert
Polish lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans activists are asking for help to establish the first LGBT centre in Poland. Szymon Niemiec, founder of the Polish Equality Parade, needs 75 000 euros in donations in order to establish the facility in Warsaw. Mr Niemiec said: "The Queer Central Station will be a place where everyone is welcome. It is our desire to encourage artists worldwide to contribute to a special gallery with periodical exhibitions. We envisage a small shop that will include literature about homosexuals and other interesting topics and perhaps other items."
Poland is a very conservative Roman Catholic country, where for many people the teachings of the Church are still the sole basis of moral grounding. The country has had a poor record on LGBT rights since joining the EU in 2004. The election of the homophobic Lech Kaczynski as President in 2005 and the elevation of his twin brother Jaroslaw to the office of Prime Minister that year hampered efforts by gay groups and the EU to push through legal protections for LGBT people. The brothers are members of the Law and Justice Party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc), a political party with deeply held homophobic attitudes.
In 2005 Lech Kaczynski, as Mayor of the city of Warsaw, refused to issue a permit for a gay Pride parade. A short while later he issued a permit for a "normality parade," which was denounced by the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) as a "demonstration whose main objective was an incitation to hate and intolerance toward LGBT people." Amnesty International has also expressed concern about a climate of intolerance in Poland against the LGBT community, characterised by the banning of public events organised by the LBGT community, openly homophobic language used by some highly placed politicians, and incitement of homophobic hatred by some right-wing groups.
Amnesty International also expressed concern over the recent abolition of the government office responsible for promotion of equal treatment for sexual minorities. The removal of Jaroslaw Kaczynski from power late last year and his replacement with Donald Tusk as Prime Minister as leader of the Civic Platform (Platform Obywatelska) did little to improve the Polish government’s attitude to gay rights. In December 2007 the European Court of Human Rights issued a ruling upholding its previous verdict against the Polish Government and the ban by the Warsaw city authorities of the city’s Gay Pride in 2005, declaring such a ban to be illegal.
Despite this ruling, in January of this year Civic Platform declared the ruling void in Poland. It is hoped that the establishment of a permanent centre in Warsaw will act as a visible sign of the LGBT rights movement in Poland that will act as a teaching tool and a rallying point for the community.
Donations can be made at www.friendsofszymon.org
March 19, 2008 – The International Herald
New York man files complaint against Polish president for anti-gay marriage speech
Warsaw, Poland (AP) – A gay New York man said Wednesday he has filed a complaint against the Polish president for using images of him and his partner in a national speech to warn against homosexual marriage. A brief video clip of Brendan Fay’s wedding with his partner Tom Moulton was woven into President Lech Kaczynski’s televised address to the nation Monday night. The video, along with a photo of the couple’s marriage certificate, was shown as the president warned against the dangers of adopting the EU’s new treaty and its Charter of Fundamental Rights, which Kaczynski says could open the door to same-sex marriage in Poland.
"An article of the charter, due to no clear definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman, may go against the universally accepted moral order in Poland and force our country to introduce an institution in conflict with the moral convictions of the decided majority of our country," Kaczynski said as the images flashed across the screen. It was not immediately clear how the images were obtained. Fay said that Polish immigrants and reporters began calling him Tuesday, asking how he felt about having his image used in the address.
"My initial reaction was one of surprise and shock really," said Fay, a longtime gay activist who is a co-founder of the All Inclusive St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Queens, New York. "I started getting translations of the phrase the president used as the image appeared… My reaction was just really… I thought, ‘oh my God, what an insult’ … Tom and I are just a couple, like any other couple around the world."
Fay, a documentary filmmaker who was born in Ireland but is now a New York resident, said he submitted his complaint to the Polish Consulate in New York on Tuesday. "Our images clearly were being used in a campaign by the president of Poland against lesbian and gay persons, and fostering intolerance and fear among the people of Poland," he said on Wednesday.
Moulton, who is a pediatric oncologist and met Fay at Sunday Mass, said EU countries that permit same-sex marriage have not suffered from it. "It has not brought down their economy, it hasn’t destroyed any of the heterosexual marriages… it hasn’t brought down the families. If anything, it has strengthened the families," Moulton said.
There is little support for same-sex marriage in Poland, a deeply Catholic country which joined the European Union in 2004. The Polish constitution states that marriage is only between a man and a woman. As mayor of Warsaw, Kaczynski refused to grant parade permits for gay rights marches, while his twin brother, former prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has said "it’s not in the interest of any society to increase the number of homosexuals."
March 31, 2008 – ukgaynews.org.uk
Media Frenzy at Warsaw Airport for Arrival of Gay American Couple
Warsaw – Gay Americans Brendan Fay and Tom Moulton found a media frenzy when they arrived at Warsaw airport yesterday for a three-day visit. The couple, who were married in Canada, hit the international headlines when their wedding image was used in Polish President Lech Kaczynski’s televised prime-time address to scare the Polish people against supporting the Lisbon Treaty, arrived to Warsaw for a three-day visit. The trip is sponsored by TVN Television.
Their first day in Poland was an opportunity to meet with Polish gay rights leaders Tomasz Szypula and Greg Czarnecki from the Campaign Against Homophobia (Kampania Przeciw Homofobii – KPH) as well as other members of the LGBT community. Fay and Moulton were eager to get to know about the situation and issues of LGBT people in the East European nation. The Polish activists showed the couple from New York some major sites in the city such as the former Jewish Ghetto and the Old Town and attended a Catholic Mass in the afternoon. They were also able to see a rock concert in solidarity of Belarus. Later they had dinner together with one of Poland’s most prominent gay couples Tomasz Raczek, film critic, and Marcin Szczygielski, writer.
“For us this is a journey of friendship and solidarity. It’s a most unexpected opportunity to share our story and hear the stories of the courageous lesbian and gay community in Poland”, say Fay and Moulton.
In a statement, KPH said: “We are very honoured to have Fay and Moulton here in order to start a public dialog on domestic partnerships. We are happy that in fact the couple has received a lot of expressions of support from Poles both within the country and abroad.”
28 March 2008 – The Earth Times
Polish intellectuals apologize for president offending gays
Warsaw – Polish intellectuals publicly apologized Friday to a gay US couple for being offended by the anti-gay propaganda of Polish President Lech Kaczynski. Kaczynski on March 17 used images of the wedding of Brendan Fay and Thomas A. Moulton, a gay couple from New York, in a TV speech warning against gay rights as enshrined in the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights.
According to the paper Dziennik, 600 signatories – among them writer Olga Tokarczuk and sociologist Ireneusz Krzeminski – signed a letter saying they were embarrassed by Kaczynski’s speech, assuring the US-couple of their support and solidarity. Poland’s president warned that the adoption the charter by Poland could undermine Catholic morals and strengthen the rights of displaced ethnic Germans. The national-conservative twin politicians Lech and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, a former prime minister, are outspoken opponents of legalizing gay partnerships.
7th April 2008 – PinkNews
Poland approves Lisbon Treaty with rights opt-out
by PinkNews.co.uk staff writer
Both Houses of the Polish parliament have approved the Lisbon Treaty with an opt-out from the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights. The UK is the only other nation in the 27-member EU to opt out of the charter, which is legally binding on EU institutions such as the European Court of Justice, as part of the new Reform Treaty agreed by the EU heads of government in Lisbon. The Lisbon treaty needed a two-thirds majority vote in the Polish parliament to become law, which required the right-wing Law and Justice opposition party to support it. It was approved by the Sejm, or lower house, on Tuesday and by the Senate the next day. President Lech Kazcynski has indicated he will sign the treaty.
Gay activists in Poland were dismayed late last year when the newly-elected Tusk government decided to continue the policy of opposition to the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights. Before coming to power in November Donald Tusk had signalled he would sign up to the charter, which broadly mirrors the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. Former Justice and Law Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of the President, had claimed that Poland was "culturally different" from their EU partners, especially when it came to the rights of LGBT people and the use of the death penalty, and refused to sign up. Last month a Presidential address to the nation tried to used heavy-handed tactics to warn of the dangers of the Lisbon treaty.
During the transmission images of a pre-World War Two map of Germany encompassing parts of Poland was interspersed with news footage of German Chancellor Angela Merkel talking to a campaigner for Germans expelled from Poland. Over footage of two men getting married in Canada the President, a notorious homophobe, claimed the Lisbon treaty would "affect the accepted moral order in Poland." Despite the President’s dire warning that the treaty would lead to the introduction of gay marriage in Poland, 69% of respondents in a poll taken after the speech by daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza. did not believe him.
Overall 65% want the treaty to be approved and 15% do not. 64% of Poles do not think the Lisbon treaty will not lead to Nazi-era property claims. Prime Minister Tusk commented after the Presidential address: "Scaring Poles that the EU poses a danger on the part of homosexuals and Germans is foolish, indecent, contrary to our experience and fatally harmful to Poland." The Kaczynski brothers have caused several controversies within the LGBT community.
On a state visit to Ireland at the beginning of last year President Kaczynski said that the promotion of homosexuality would lead to the eventual destruction of the human race, while Jaroslaw has also been known to make homophobic remarks during his political career. As the then Mayor of Warsaw, Lech Kaczynski banned the city’s gay pride parade in 2004. He also banned the event in 2005 while allowing a homophobic counter-demonstration, the "Parade of Normality." In August 2006, when quizzed by the EU over his gay rights record, Jaroslaw Kaczynski said he was not a homophobe. As Prime Minister he proposed a range homophobic legislation, but it was abandoned when he was defeated in last year’s election.
May 21, 2008 – PinkNews
Poland seen as "a country of homophobes and Teletubbies specialists"
by Tony Grew
The Prime Minister of Poland has spoken out about his country’s image abroad under the Presidency of Lech Kaczynski. Last week Human Rights Watch inducted the President into their annual "Hall of Shame" to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, a move that brought into sharp contrast views of Kaczynski at home and abroad. The President was placed in the Hall of Shame for a controversial speech decrying German influence on the country and gay marriage. His address to the nation in March used heavy-handed tactics to warn of the dangers of the Lisbon treaty.
Over footage of two men getting married the President, a notorious homophobe, claimed the treaty would "affect the accepted moral order in Poland." Donald Tusk, who took office as Prime Minister in November, succeeded the President’s twin brother, Jaroslaw Kaczynski. When asked about the Hall of Shame, he said: "The image of homosexuals were used in the context of a curse and disaster which are lurking over Poland. I would prefer that Poland, whoever it concerns, whether the Prime Minister or President, not be regarded in the world opinion as a country of homophobes, Teletubbies specialists, but rather that they consider us normal. I sympathise with the President because as you remember, he said he didn’t watch the address before it was aired. This could be a warning for him to do so especially when there are these types of people who prepare addresses as in this case. That would be safer."
The country was widely mocked last year when it was revealed that Ewa Sowinska, a government-appointed children rights watchdog, said she would ask psychologists to advise if the Teletubbies’ camp antics could affect children. "I noticed [Tinky Winky] has a lady’s purse, but I didn’t realise he’s a boy," she said. "At first I thought the purse would be a burden for this Teletubby. . . Later I learned that this may have a homosexual undertone." Her office later dropped the issue. Miss Sowinska, a member of the militantly anti-gay and anti-abortion League of Polish Families, resigned last month. The party was a junior coalition partner in Poland’s previous government but lost its seats in parliament in an election last year.
Tinky Winky is the largest of the Teletubbies, sporting a triangular antenna on his head. He is also found dancing in a ballet-style tutu from time to time, which is also often worn by Laa-Laa. Pawel Kowal, an MP for the President’s Law and Justice party, attacked HRW and the "Hall of Shame." "It happens that serious organisations make a mistake. In this case it’s a matter of completely misunderstanding the point of the speech. The facts are that there which would support this claim, and I say this with the deepest sincerity as a Christian who would never do anything against people with a different sexual orientation which is not sanctioned by Catholic doctrine."
Lech Kaczynski was not the only public figure "who attacks LGBT people and families for political ends." HRW also nominated the President of Uganda and the Home Office for "making prejudicial policies and public statements that deny people’s dignity and endanger their lives."
May 23, 2008 – PinkNews
Polish Catholics fund treatment centre to ‘cure’ homosexuals
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
The Roman Catholic Church has helped set up a rehabilitation centre in Poland that attempts to ‘cure’ homosexuality. Last week as countries around the world marked the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) the Polish rehabilitation centre ‘Odwaga’ opened its doors to the media. Among the centre’s activities are football lessons for men and cooking classes for women.
The American Psychiatric Association issued a critical statement backed by numerous other mainstream medical organisations, which stated: "There is simply no sufficiently scientifically sound evidence that sexual orientation can be changed." The statement went on to say that positions espoused by ex-gay organizations, "are not supported by the science" and that they "create an environment in which prejudice and discrimination can flourish." The centre, which is funded by a Catholic Church group, has received criticism from gay rights activists who claim that the ‘treatments’ used can cause lasting psychological harm and even push people to suicide.
Attempting to ‘cure’ homosexuals is nothing new.
Beginning in the US with Evangelical Christians, the ‘ex-gay’ movement has become popular among other religions around the world with the Catholic Church, Church of the Latter Day Saints, Jewish, Muslim and non-religious groups taking on the idea of treatment centres. In 1991 14-year-old Lyn Duff’s experiences after coming out to her parents made headlines. Concerned about her daughter’s sexual orientation, her mother took her by force from her grandparent’s home to Rivendell Psychiatric Centre, a residential treatment centre near Salt Lake City, USA. There she received ‘treatment’ reportedly included shock therapy, aversion therapy, psychotropic drugs, hypnosis, and behavioural counselling. After 168 days in Rivendell, Miss Duff escaped and initiated legal action against the facility and her mother.
May 28, 2008 – PinkNews
Swedes donate 5,000 euros to Warsaw Pride
by Tony Grew
The organisers of EuroPride 2008 have revealed that they are supporting this weekend’s Pride festival in Warsaw with a grant. Stockholm Pride will this year give Warsaw 5000 euros from the "Solidarity Fund." The festival in the Polish capital starts on Saturday. Representatives from Stockholm Pride will join in the closing parade on June 7th. Stockholm organisers said that their Polish counterparts had received very little funding from businesses and only hostility from the municipal authorities.
"Our Polish lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender friends face harsh resistance both in politics and as individuals," said Jonah Nylund, president of Stockholm Pride. It is therefore important that we support Equality Foundation, the arrangers of Warsaw Pride, both financially and by our own presence."
Polish courts and the European Court of Human Rights have found bans on pride events in Polish cities in 2004 and 2005 to be unlawful. The 2007 Warsaw parade drew a record 5,000 supporters and little protest, and a smaller march in Krakow went forward without major incident.
"International support gives us the strength and courage to carry on our work and makes the whole event possible," said Marcin Sroczynski, coordinator of Warsaw Pride. We hope this year’s festivities with the film festival will be successful and contribute to Poland’s progress on our way towards normalcy."
This summer Stockholm Pride is hosting EuroPride from July 25th to August 3rd.
June 6, 2008 – PinkNews
Rainbow flag to fly over second British embassy
By Tony Grew
Warsaw holds its Pride parade tomorrow, and in a mark of solidarity the Rainbow flag will fly next to the Union flag over the British embassy in the city. The parade, the end of a week of events called Equality Days, will pass by the embassy. The Rainbow flag will fly over the embassy building from this afternoon to Monday morning. Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Poland, Ric Todd, will raise the flag over the British Embassy building on Aleje Ujazdowskie at four this afternoon. Last week the Rainbow flag flew over the British embassy in Riga to mark that city’s Pride event.
"The UK remains committed to promoting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people overseas," said Mr Todd. "This small gesture is a symbol of the British embassy’s commitment to equality and acceptance for all. This weekend’s Pride March will be a celebration of diversity in Poland, Europe and beyond. I particularly hope participants travelling from the UK will enjoy the festivities."
It is common for the Rainbow flag to fly from municipal buildings to mark Pride or other events such as the annual International Day Against Homophobia, but it is thought that last week marked the first time a British embassy has displayed it. In May the Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed its commitment to engage with foreign governments about the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people. It issued an ‘LGBT Toolkit’ to its 261 embassies, high commissions and other diplomatic posts. The kit contains information on the official British policy on gay rights and instructions in how to "provide added value to equality and non-discrimination work." It covers a wide range of issues, from decriminalisation, sexual health, reproductive rights and health education to bilateral work with other countries. The document states that LGBT activists are often targets for persecution and that the FCO should ensure these people are "included among human rights defenders concerning whom the UK will lobby and will engage the support of other governments, especially EU members."
A spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office told PinkNews.co.uk: "The UK remains committed to promoting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people overseas. Last December the FCO adopted a programme of action for promoting the human rights of LGBT people abroad. This made clear that sexual orientation cannot be a qualifying factor in the application of human rights. We have now worked with partners to develop a programme to guide our embassies overseas. This programme has now been sent to all our diplomatic posts worldwide. We will continue to engage with our posts to promote the rights LGBT people across the world."
June 9, 2008 – PinkNews
From Athens to Sheffield, gays march with Pride
by Sophie Picheta
The UK showed its support for Poland’s gay community on Saturday as the Rainbow flag flew from the British Embassy in Warsaw during the city’s Pride festival. Saturday’s march marked the end of ‘Equality Days,’ a week-long festival with the slogan Live, Love, Be. 2,000 people took part in this year’s parade. Warsaw police were out in force to prevent attacks by extreme right sympathisers, although the parade passed off without major incident. Bans on Polish Pride festivals in 2004 and 2005 were found to be unlawful by Polish courts and the European Court of Human Rights.
On Saturday Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Poland, Ric Todd, raised the flag over the British Embassy building. The Pride march passed on its way through the city. The Rainbow flag also flew in Riga last week, to mark that city’s Pride event. "The UK remains committed to promoting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people overseas," said Mr Todd. "This small gesture is a symbol of the British embassy’s commitment to equality and acceptance for all."
Szymon Niemiec, who took part in Saturday’s Pride, told PinkNews.co.uk: "Thank you Great Britain. I had tears in my eyes when I saw our flag in front of your embassy today."
Pride events have also been held in other major European cities. More than 10,000 people took to the streets in Rome for the Pride parade, which had previously been denounced as "an act of sexual exhibition" by the city’s mayor Gianni Alemanno. In Athens, Pride festivities were disrupted by right wing sympathisers. Police had to intervene. One of the four people married in a same-sex ceremony last Tuesday attended. Tassos Alfieries, the Mayor of Tilos, an island with a population of less than 600, offered to perform Greece’s first gay wedding, after two men announced their intention to wed in a newspaper notice.
Lesbian and gay rights activists argue that the law does not explicitly proclaim a civil union must take place between a man and a woman. In the UK, hundreds of revellers took to the streets of Sheffield on Saturday for the city’s most successful Pride ever. "We were thrilled that we have been able to follow cities such as Manchester and London and host our own gay pride event in South Yorkshire,” Lisa White of the South Yorkshire Pride Committee told the Sheffield Star.
October 24, 2008 – PinkNews
Polish President’s visit scuppers gay rights march
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
The decision of the President of Poland to attend an anniversary event in Krakow has frustrated plans for a gay rights event on October 31st. President Kaczynski is an outspoken homophobe, and banned Warsaw Pride in 2004 when he was Mayor of the city. He also banned the event in 2005 while allowing a homophobic counter-demonstration, the "Parade of Normality." Until he decided to go to Krakow, the city authorities were happy to host the March of Rainbow Tolerance on the same day as the 90th anniversary indepence celebrations.
The route was agreed.
The gay marchers were to visit the grave of King Wladyslaw III at Wavel ‘Royal Hill’, close by the city centre. October 31st is his birthday. He is regarded as the first gay king of Poland. “The city has sent us official notification that we don’t have permission to march and perform on the streets because of President’s visit,” march spokesperson Lukasz Palucki told ukgaynews. The President will be there where we planned to have our event. We are not allowed to be at Wawel – the grave of King Wladyslaw III – on this day. It is hard to say if President Kaczynski is going to Kraków to as a way of banning our march – or just to be part of Krakow’s event."
On a state visit to Ireland at the beginning of last year President Kaczynski said that the promotion of homosexuality would lead to the eventual destruction of the human race. Wladyslaw was King of Poland from 1434 and of Hungary from 1440 until his death in battle four years later. Contemporary chronicler Jan Dlugosz said there were numerous accounts that the unmarried king was a homosexual.
January 22, 2009 – PinkNews
Polish MP disciplined after asking if former Prime Minister is gay
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
A member of the ruling party in Poland is to be removed as the chair of a parliamentary committee after he publicly questioned if one of his political opponents is gay. Jaroslaw Kazcynski was Prime Minister from July 2006 until his Law and Justice party was defeated in the November 2007 election. He has never married and there have been persistent rumours about his sexual orientation. His identical twin brother Lech Kaczynski is President of Poland.
In August 2006, when quizzed by the EU over his gay rights record, Jaroslaw Kaczynski said he was not a homophobe. As Prime Minister he proposed a range homophobic legislation, but it was abandoned when he was defeated. Civic Platform MP Janusz Palikot faced calls for his removal from the party after he accused a former Justice and Law minister Grazyna Gesicka of "political prostitution," reports Warsaw Voice.
Mr Palikot also questioned if Mr Kaczynski was gay in a post on his blog, and then last week followed that with a claim that he had been contacted by several people who say they have been "sexually molested" by the former Prime Minister. Party officials decided to reprimand him and remove him from as as chair of the Friendly State parliamentary committee as a result of his remarks about Mrs Gesicka, but made no comment on the allegations of homosexuality.
Prime Minister Donald Tusk said: "I wish to apologise to Mrs. Grazyna Gesicka. Janusz Palikot has overstepped the boundaries of political decency in public debate." On a state visit to Ireland at the beginning of 2007 President Kaczynski said that the promotion of homosexuality would lead to the eventual destruction of the human race, while Jaroslaw has also been known to make homophobic remarks during his political career. As Mayor of Warsaw Lech Kaczynski banned the city’s gay pride parade in 2004. He also banned the event in 2005 while allowing a homophobic counter-demonstration, the "Parade of Normality."
February 26, 2009 – PinkNews
Euro Parliament accepts petition on Poland’s discrimination against gays
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
The European Parliament Committee on Petitions has accepted a petition submitted by a Polish LGBT rights group on the discriminatory practices of registry offices. The Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH) said the Polish Registry Office has been known to refuse to issue certificates of marital status for gays and lesbians who would like to enter into a same-sex union abroad. Certificates are required to enter into a union in most EU countries.
The EP Committee decided that the issues tackled in the petition fall under the jurisprudence of the European Union. According to a letter from the Committee, an official procedure has begun to investigate the complaint which includes a request of the European Commission to explain what has been done regarding the issues raised in the petition. The Committee also said that the issue should be dealt with by the EP’s Intergroup for LGBT Rights.
KPH made the European Parliament aware of the problems Polish citizens have been facing when attempting to enter into a same-sex union with a citizen of another EU country. According to KPH the Registry violates the basic human right to form a family which is afforded to Polish gays and lesbians and conflicts with the EU principle of freedom of movement.
February 26, 2009 – ukgaynews.org.uk
US State Department Criticises Russia, Serbia for Breaches of Human Rights of Gays – Human Rights Report praised by Moscow Gay Pride Organisers
Washington – Russia is condemned for breaches of human rights in the US State Department’s annual Human Rights Report, published yesterday. And human rights for gay men and women are highlights by the cases of continued bans on Moscow Gay Pride. The report also criticises other countries, like Serbia and Nigeria, for their attitudes towards gays. In the section on Russia, a large part of the report is given over to the human rights situation in the North Caucasus, highlighting cases of kidnapping, tortures, and killings of civilians. And the report points out that quite often the Russian special services are involved in these crimes.
On gay rights issues, the report says:
On June 1, after a number of gay rights activists were repeatedly denied permission to hold parades, gay pride organizers held two demonstrations in Moscow. Organizers had announced that the demonstration would take place across the street from the mayor’s office, and police and counter-protesters gathered there to confront them. However, the organizers secretly notified participants of a different location and, in contrast to the banned parade in 2007, a short march took place largely free of violence. The human rights ombudsman criticized the mayor’s policy of denying permission for gay parades. In October, the Moscow City Court upheld a ruling by the Tverskoy District Court banning 10 marches that were part of the gay parade.
While homosexuality is not illegal, the gay community continued to suffer societal stigma and discrimination. Medical practitioners reportedly continued to limit or refuse their access to health services due to intolerance and prejudice. According to recent studies, male homosexuals were refused work due to their sexuality. Openly gay men were targets for skinhead aggression, which was often met with police indifference. A few gay rights organizations operated out of public view. The law does not provide for increased penalties for violence motivated by sexual orientation. In March, two youths killed a man in Sverdlovsk Oblast whom they perceived to be a homosexual. Both individuals were arrested and remained under investigation. There was no update in the case at year’s end.
On June 1, gay pride activist Alexey Davydov was assaulted while addressing reporters at the Moscow Gay Pride event. Members of the National Slavonic Union pushed to the ground and severely beat Davydov. The police managed to arrest the attackers, although police also detained Davydov and sent him to the same police station along with the attackers. There were reportedly no charges filed against the perpetrators. The report also cites the 2007 Moscow Gay Pride: “In May 2007, participants in a Moscow gay rights demonstration were assaulted by counter demonstrators. Security forces did not protect the demonstrators and arrested approximately 25 gay rights activists”
It is not the first time that the US State Department has highlighted the violation of Freedom of Assembly for the LGBT community in Russia, and in particular the bans of the Moscow Pride events. But Nikolai Alekseev pointed out that the issue of Freedom of Assembly for gays and lesbians was not only in Moscow: “Whether in Moscow, Tambov, Liski, or anywhere, freedom of assembly does not exist in Russia for LGBT people,” he said this evening. “It’s already a turnaround that a report on human rights dedicates a large part to LGBT issues. This is a great reward for our fight of freedom of assembly that GayRussia and Moscow Pride have started in 2005 already. In 2009, we keep fighting,” he added.
Elsewhere in the Human Rights Report, there is criticism of Serbia and Nigeria for continued problems suffered by gay men and women. But the report recognises improvements in Latvia and Poland.
Violence and discrimination against homosexuals was a problem. A comprehensive survey of societal perceptions of homosexuality and attitudes towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population, conducted in February and March, showed that the dominant opinion was that homosexuality is a disease and represents a threat to society. Several Serbia-based Neo-Nazi web sites and Facebook pages hosted anti-LGBT forums and groups. During the Eurovision song contest in May, the right-wing youth group Obraz organized squads that patrolled Belgrade to protest against the “street conference of gay-lesbian groups”. The group stated it would not tolerate any public promotion of “evil”, but there were no reported incidents. On September 19, a group of approximately 20 youths wearing surgical masks and hoods attacked participants in a gay rights festival in Belgrade. Several participants suffered minor injuries, while an U.S. citizen suffered a broken arm and concussion. According to press reports, the police reacted swiftly, arresting two of the attackers and filing criminal charges. There was no further information available at year’s end.
After denying a permit in 2006, authorities issued, for a second year, a permit for a gay pride parade in Riga. While the parade was held on May 31, its organizers questioned the extremely high level of security measures taken by authorities, which organizers believed discouraged participation and limited visibility of the event.
During the year there were some reports of skinhead violence and societal discrimination against persons based on their sexual orientation. On April 25, an estimated 1,000 persons took part in Krakows annual gay March for Tolerance to call for an end to prejudice against homosexuals. The event took place without major incident; organizers noted that, for the first time, they were not forced to change their route and could march through the city’s main square. A small counter-demonstration was organized by the All Youth and National Rebirth of Poland activists. Some hooligans threw eggs, stones and bottles at march participants; six people were detained by police. In May 2007 the UN Committee Against Torture raised concerns over violence and hatred against homosexuals in the country. On June 7, Warsaw authorities allowed the annual Equality Parade to take place in the city center for the third consecutive year. Approximately 2,000 local and international gay rights advocates participated in the march without serious incident. Some 100 members of the All Poland’s Youth and National Radical Camp staged a counterdemonstration, but there was no direct confrontation between the two groups due to police protection.
Homosexuality is illegal under federal law; homosexual practices are punishable by prison sentences of up to 14 years. In the 12 northern states that have adopted Shari’a law, adults convicted of engaging in homosexual intercourse are subject to execution by stoning, although no such sentences were imposed during the year. Because of widespread taboos against homosexuality, very few persons were openly homosexual. On September 12, local newspapers Nation, Vanguard, PM News and the Sunday Sun published photos, names, and addresses of members of the House of Rainbow Metropolitan Community Church, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered-friendly church in Lagos. Following publication, persons started harassing the 12 members. One woman was attacked by 11 men, while others were threatened, stoned, and beaten. No investigation was initiated by year’s end.
The full US State Department’s Human Rights Report can be read HERE.
7 April 2009 – Sydney Star Observer
Polish gay movement gains momentum
by Lyndon Barnett
After losing his job because of discrimination, Warsaw-born Szymon Niemiec, 31, was inspired to become a gay activist. He became an organiser of Poland’s first Pride parade after watching Sydney’s 2001 Mardi Gras on television. “While at a gay bar with friends watching Sydney’s parade we asked ourselves, ‘Why not?’ From this moment Equality Parade was born,” Szymon said. “Our group, ILGCN Poland, had always one goal: to build acceptance in Poland for LGBT people by culture, help and support. From the beginning we used art and culture to make Polish gays visible and proud of their achievements.”
Szymon believes the greatest obstacle to acceptance is the Polish mentality. “The biggest problem with tolerance is Polish fear. Our position between Russia and Germany led us to be a society that was always under, or in danger of, occupation,” he said. “This trauma lives in our mentality today and nationalists use it to ‘defend’ Polish fears about losing independence. Hopefully this is a problem of the previous generation. Young people are more Western, because they don’t remember communist times.”
By 2004 the parade had gathered momentum, bringing the wrath of Warsaw’s mayor, Lech Kaczynski, who banned the parades in 2004 and 2005. Kaczynski said he is, “for tolerance, but [I] am against propagating gay orientation.” Szymon believes the reason was political. “There was only one reason for that — the coming elections. His political party decided to use ‘gay fear’ in the same way as the Communist Party used ‘Jew fear’ in 1968 to take power,” he said. Due to illness, Szymon retired from activism in 2005. His successors created an activist movement, the Equality Foundation, encompassing several organisations.
The Foundation successfully challenged the parade bans in the European Parliament, paving the way for a new mayor to approve subsequent parades. “There was no legal option for another ban. In 2006 persons from all around the world showed up to march in solidarity with LGBT and human rights. This tremendous outpouring of support from Western society validated that the Polish gay community is not left alone.” However, any momentum created by the movement is being threatened not by conservatives, but from within activist circles.
The Polish government recently took Equality Foundation office-bearers to court amid allegations of falsifying court documents and failing to file financial reports from 2005 to 2007. Jacek Adler, editor of gaylife.pl, is currently defending his website against accusations of defamation. Szymon hopes the situation will be resolved by Euro Pride 2010, which Warsaw is hosting. “Euro Pride is a huge possibility and hope for all of us. Not only because it can be the biggest gay event in Polish history, but also because Euro Pride can show our financial power to the Polish government and society. We are able to show the power of ‘pink money,’ the only power that has any ability to influence public policy,” he said.
“I can only hope that people who will be in charge of this event will not forget about the core values of the Equality Parade that I created in 2001: equality for all citizens of Poland and the world.”
April 9th 2009 – Daily News
‘A great first step’: 2 New Yorkers invited to Poland by government after gay marriage outrage
by Corky Siemaszko, Daily News Staff Writer
Tom Moulton and Brendan Fay were invited to Poland by the government after the president used footage of them kissing in an anti-gay marriage ad. Two New Yorkers who were outraged when Poland’s president made them poster boys in his fight against gay marriage have been invited to visit Warsaw. It’s short of the apology and face-to-face meeting Brendan Fay and Tom Moulton were seeking from President Kaczynski, but it’s "a great first step," Fay said. "There is silence in the letter about the rights of lesbians and gays in Poland, but the fact that we got a response says something."
Fay said he was also heartened by the tone of the letter sent by Polish secretary of state Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka, in which she writes of reaching "over the rainbow" and of "breaking stereotypes." Junczyk-Ziomecka also recommended they take in the Beethoven festival. Fay said they’re flying to Ireland in the coming days "and if the president agrees to meet with us we’re ready to continue on to Poland."
Fay, 50, and Moulton, 51, went on the warpath last year after Kaczynski – without their permission – used footage of them kissing at their July 2003 nuptual in Toronto as the backdrop for his rant against a European Union treaty that offered gay rights protection. The conservative Kaczynski warned this could open the door to gay marriage in Poland, an overwhelmingly Catholic country that does not recognize same-sex unions. The New Yorkers filed a complaint at the Polish consulate and then – at the invitation of gay groups in Poland – flew there for the first time. "There are stereotypes about Poles being intolerant but we were treated decently and with respect," Fay said.
May 06, 2009 – xtra.ca
Solidarity for Polish queers: Fingerprinted / 37 million zlotych a small price to pay
by Daniel Allen Cox
author of SHUCK
Lambda Literary Award finalist
An open letter to Ryszard Grobelny, mayor of Poznan, Poland
The day I return to Poznan, I’m going to visit my two Polish heroes: Ninio the gay elephant, and the man who kept me safe the year I lived there. Let me tell you about the night these two characters collided, but never met.
On April 2, 2005 at 9:37 p.m., the church bells started chiming in Poznan, and I knew that Pope John Paul II had died. I was in my apartment, running my finger through the coal dust on the windowsill, trying to grasp the historical importance of what was happening. My building had a security guard (straznik in Polish, as you know), an older, grizzled man who sat in a tiny office just big enough for a schoolchild’s desk, a teakettle, and a radio. I knew that he would be hunched over by the single speaker, listening intently as his country changed forever.
I would have to pay him a courtesy visit that night of bells and tinnitus, to say something, anything, in my broken Polish. The country is rife with unspoken rules that govern the business of death. He and I never exchanged more than a few words of greeting. When I would sneak home with young men I had plucked from the only gay club in the city — on the edge of town, without a sign — he would be watching, smiling. He knew. Ryszard, I usually hate secrets, but I will soon explain why I was thankful he kept my homosexuality hidden from the neighbours.
Surely, I could find something to say to him. After all, this was the end of life for Karol Wojtyla, the young man from rural Poland who survived Nazi occupation and went from the limestone quarry to the papacy, and who for decades galvanized the country in its fight against the communist regime. Was he not credited with sparking the Solidarity Movement, the revolution that brought democracy to Poland and led to the fall of the Berlin Wall?
But I had mixed feelings about this pope, and wasn’t sure I was in the mood to chat. John Paul II strengthened HIV/AIDS by championing the Vatican’s ban on condoms, an act directly responsible for countless deaths worldwide. He condemned homosexuality, giving a thumbs-up to the continued persecution and silencing of queers in predominantly Christian countries. Placing them, with a holy kiss, into an invisible ghetto.
Clang, clang. It was 9:38. The bells had been ringing for a solid minute, and I couldn’t think of anything to say to my straznik. I was shocked by what happened in the days following the Pope’s death: a complete national meltdown. Schools and businesses were shuttered. Giant pictures of the pontiff went up in the windows of practically every home, supermarket, shop and streetcar. Vatican flags flew high, children wore black armbands, and red, windproof candles blazed in traffic intersections in the shape of the crucifix, forcing cars to detour. I got lost in the crowds that roamed the streets from vigil to vigil, at all hours of the night. Like everybody else, I was looking for answers and went home empty-handed.
Throughout the week, MTV Poland played sound-clips of JP II shouting between Led Zeppelin and Queen songs, "Do not be afraid!"
But how could I not? When you banned the Poznan Equality March in 2005, stating that it posed "a significant danger to public morality," did you mistake the Polish constitution and its freedom of assembly clause for a piece of toilet paper? Your police officers arrested the brave few who demonstrated peacefully, who also had to deal with right-wing groups throwing rocks, and according to Amnesty International, shouting "Let’s gas the fags" and "We’ll do to you what Hitler did to Jews."
That sentiment, unfortunately, was felt on a much wider scale. The BBC has quoted Polish President Lech Kaczynski as saying that the human race "would disappear if homosexuality was freely promoted."
I wasn’t the only one afraid; these were scary times for everybody. Poland had just joined the European Union and subsequently felt its traditions — the ones that had held it together through centuries of occupation, war and genocide — were under attack by liberal, western mores. Sexual and gender minorities were among the most visible of these perceived threats, and they perhaps felt the backlash most heavily. Then JP II died, the country reacted severely to the loss of its morality guru, and it became a more dangerous place for me to have a sex life.
But volatility is no excuse for institutionalized hatred, and it certainly doesn’t justify your government’s treatment of Ninio the elephant. It appears that Ninio, the latest addition to the local zoo, is rather physically affectionate with his fellow male pachyderms, so much so that it prompted your colleague and city counsellor Michal Grzes to fume in the Daily Mail, "We didn’t pay 37 million zlotych ($13M) for the largest elephant house in Europe to have a gay elephant live there."
Oh yes, you did! Now Grzes wants to get rid of him, but there are friends of Ninio — including an army of Poznan homosexuals — he would have to fight first.
Back to my apartment. It was 9:45, and my tongue was still molten lead. What a night to be speechless. With no words of comfort for my straznik, I decided to give him something else instead. I padded down the building’s darkened stairs in my socks, and knocked on his door. He was reading a newspaper; I found it strange that the radio was off. We nodded to each other and something timeless passed between us, through vapours of vodka and aftershave. I handed him my only response to the night’s events: a lit, windproof candle. What a cliché, I thought, and then quickly corrected myself — no, it’s a tradition.
He accepted the candle graciously. I miss him so.
Ryszard, I am writing to thank you for granting permission to the Poznan Equality marchers from 2006 onward, and for providing police protection to them. If you do not continue to accord full civil rights to the sexual and gender minorities of your city, they will fight twice as hard for their freedom. They will continue to defy bans and to make themselves heard, and they will seek support from the international community, including from the European Court of Human Rights. They will tear down the silence built around them until they can live in an atmosphere of tolerance and anti-discrimination.
Open your window and listen. That is the sound of the Queer Solidarity Movement, and the sound of an elephant that wants to fuck in peace.
June 15, 2009 – 365Gay.com
Gay pride activists march in Rome, Warsaw, Zagreb
by The Associated Press
Rome – Tens of thousands of gay rights activists demanding rights for same-sex couples marched through the streets of Rome on Saturday in a gay pride parade. Smaller marches wound through the capitals of heavily Catholic Poland and in Croatia, where counterdemonstrators shouted anti-gay and nationalist slogans.
In Rome, costumed demonstrators carrying rainbow flags and signs reading “freedom for all” attacked the conservative government of Premier Silvio Berlusconi. They demanded rights for same-sex couples and the recognition of gay marriage. Activists dressed as fake clergy with colorful hats and signs reading “No Vatican” protested what they say is the church’s excessive influence on Italy’s policies. Organizers said Saturday was not a special day for gay pride but that most such parades are organized around June 28, marking the 1969 landmark Stonewall riots in New York, considered the birth of the gay rights movement.
In Warsaw, hundreds of gay and lesbian activists marched, also calling for legal unions between same-sex couples. About 1,500 demonstrators marched along Warsaw’s main Marszalkowska Street under escort, police said. Several dozen right-wing youths shouting anti-gay invective confronted the parade near the Parliament building, but there were no confrontations, police said. Some previous gay demonstrations have been marked by violence.
Homosexuals were a taboo subject in Poland under communism. Since the 1990 democratic changes, gays have been campaigning for equal rights, but marriage in Poland is only legal between a man and a woman.
In Croatia, another mostly Roman Catholic country, about 500 gay activists marched through Zagreb. No violence was reported, but about 50 people held a counterdemonstration and shouted anti-gay slogans. One was led away by police after trying to break through a cordon that authorities had created around the Gay Pride parade to protect it.
June 18, 2009 – Pride Source
Polish gays march as society opens to them slowly
by Vanessa Gera, Associated Press Writer
Warsaw, Poland (AP) – Poland’s gay rights community is gearing up for a weekend pride parade in Warsaw, an event that authorities in past years tried to ban and right-wing protesters vented their fury against with eggs and rocks. With fewer conservative officials in place at both the city and national level, Saturday’s planned march through the Polish capital comes amid growing openness. The city of Warsaw is even offering free and anonymous HIV testing the day of the parade. But activists say the country still has far to go in accepting its gay community. Grzegorz Czarnecki, who monitors discrimination for the Campaign Against Homophobia, said homosexuals are still afraid to walk the streets holding hands, to go to police if attacked or to come out to family and colleagues.
He and others hope the parade will help their efforts to convince this deeply Roman Catholic country that gays and lesbians deserve the right to live openly without being threatened or taunted with slurs. They know gay marriage would be a lost cause, but want legal recognition of their partnerships. "This is democracy and everyone must have the right to be in the public space," Czarnecki said.
Homosexuality was a taboo topic under communism, and in the 20 years since its collapse gay and lesbian activists have struggled against a deeply held perception _ encouraged by the church _ that their behavior is unnatural and immoral. The issue received a lot of attention in 2005, when then-Warsaw Mayor Lech Kaczynski, now the president, denied permission to a gay-rights parade in Warsaw. Some 2,000 activists marched through Warsaw despite the ban and were attacked by right-wing counter-protesters with eggs and stones. Similar bans and attacks on homosexuals also occurred in Krakow and Poznan.
From 2005-2007, Poland also had a right-wing government whose members expressed themselves openly against homosexuality. A former prime minister, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, said in 2005 that he believed homosexuality is "unnatural” and that the state should intervene if homosexuals try to "infect” others with their behavior. Such language and the bans sparked condemnation by the Council of Europe, a human rights group, and the European Union. Politicians from neighboring countries, such as Germany, traveled to Poland to support gay-rights events. But in the intervening years, homosexuals have faced less overt discrimination.
A turning point was 2007, when Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s Civic Platform came to office _ a pro-market party that has not focused on gay issues one way or the other. "Gays are not public enemies any more," said Pawel Kubara, an editor of a yearly publication geared to gay men. "There’s homophobia in Civic Platform for sure, but at least there’s an awareness that it’s something that one shouldn’t express because it’s not politically correct.” But others fault Tusk’s government for failing to actively combat homophobia.
June 23, 2009 – Fox News
Poland Gets 1st Openly Gay Rabbi
Waesaw, Poland (AP) – When Rabbi Aaron Katz walks the streets of Warsaw’s former Jewish quarter, scenes of that lost world fill his imagination: Families headed to synagogue, women in their kitchens cooking Sabbath meals, his father as a boy with the sidecurls of an Orthodox Jew. But Katz’s life could hardly be more different from that prewar eastern European culture, at least in one key respect: He is Poland’s first openly gay rabbi. Born in Argentina 53 years ago to parents who fled Poland before the Holocaust, Katz is the latest rabbi to play his part in reviving a once vibrant Jewish community that was all but wiped out by Hitler. He settled into Warsaw’s historic Jewish district in March with Kevin Gleason, a former Hollywood producer on such reality TV shows as "The Bachelor" and "Nanny 911," with whom he entered into a registered domestic partnership in Los Angeles two years ago.
They live only three streets from the birth home of Katz’s father in a modern and spacious apartment with their dogs, two gentle brown boxers. Katz says he is moved by the links to his past, but keeps his focus on the future. "I don’t think we will come back to this great Jewish life," he said, referring to prewar Poland, a country where one person in 10 was Jewish and where synagogues, yeshivas and shtetls defined the landscape. "But I hope we will have a normal Jewish life in Poland."
Katz is certainly an anomaly in conservative Poland, where to be either Jewish or gay is challenge enough — at least outside the cities. Of a population of 38 million, about 5,000 are registered as Jews, while thousands more have part-Jewish ancestry, and some have returned to their roots since Poland shed its communist dictatorship. Katz is the second rabbi to serve Beit Warszawa, a Reform community with 250 members that was founded in the capital 10 years ago by Polish and American Jews who felt little affinity with some Orthodox practices, such as separating men and women during Sabbath services. The Reform movement ordains gay rabbis.
Homosexuals have won acceptance at differing levels throughout post-communist Eastern Europe. The Czech Republic and Slovenia recognize same-sex partnerships, as will Hungary from July 1. Poland hasn’t gone that far. It has an active gay rights movement and gay nightclubs in the cities, but the Catholic church and some conservative politicians still publicly describe homosexuality as abnormal and immoral. Katz, a citizen of Argentina, Israel and Sweden, says so far he has not faced anti-Semitism or homophobia in Poland. But some community members, speaking in private, reveal a degree of discomfort.
One woman at a Sabbath service whispered that she found Katz’s open sexuality too "aggressive." A longtime male member counseled against writing about the rabbi, lest anti-Semites use it against the community. A third member, Piotr Lukasz, said he himself supports gay rights, and marched with an Israeli flag during a recent gay rights parade in Warsaw. But he said he had heard others complain that it would weaken an already small and fragile community. "They say that Poland is not a ready for a gay rabbi because the outside society is very conservative," said Lukasz, a 23-year-old student of cultural anthropology. "An openly gay rabbi is something very controversial."
Others, though, seem comfortable, as evidenced by a recent string of dinners where Jews and non-Jews joined Katz and his partner at their home, digging into goulash or chicken-and-potato meals around the dining room table and socializing through the evening. Katz is the chief cook — it’s because he likes to be in charge, says Gleason, who instead welcomes guests warmly at the door and keeps their wine glasses filled through the evenings. "I think the rabbi’s home should be open," Katz said. "The moment that you take a position, your family takes the position too. It’s a role."
Katz’s life as a rabbi has been an evolution from one world to another. In the 1980s and early 1990s he was Sweden’s chief Orthodox rabbi, married to a woman with whom he had five children now aged 16 to 31. Later he lived and worked in Berlin and Los Angeles. He had a dark beard, but today is clean-shaven. The only photograph in their living room shows Katz and Gleason on the day they sealed their partnership — which they refer to as a marriage — surrounded by both their families, including Katz’s sons and daughters, who are close to the couple and who showed their acceptance of the union with a gift of a ketubah, a traditional Jewish wedding certificate.
Katz’s journey away from Orthodox Judaism was part of his "coming out process," he explains, but also was influenced by the realization that some of his children were not attracted to Orthodox worship. He concluded that Reform Judaism was more attractive to the young. Still, he insists that as modern as he is, he loves tradition. He keeps a kosher home and has enthusiastically embraced the Jewish tradition of matchmaker, using his dinners to introduce singles — usually heterosexuals but not exclusively.
Asked how many marriages have resulted, he said "a couple," but Gleason jumped in to correct him: "You’re being modest," he said. Gleason, 50, was born into a Catholic family but converted to Judaism for Katz. He left Hollywood and now does administrative and fundraising work for the synagogue. He attends services, sitting in the back and tapping on his watch when he feels the rabbi’s lively sermons are getting to long.
Still, the openness of their relationship can catch people in Warsaw off guard. "I introduce him as my partner they say, ‘Oh he’s also a rabbi?"’ Katz said. "When I say ‘my partner’ they think I mean like in business. So I say ‘no, no, no, we are living together."’
July 4, 2009 – PinkNews
Gay Foreign Office minister Chris Bryant writes to ambassadors attacked over LGBT rights
by Jessica Geen
Openly gay Foreign Office minister Chris Bryant has extended his support to two British ambassadors who were criticised for their support of gay rights. The British ambassador to Bulgaria, Steve Williams, and the British ambassador to Poland, Ric Todd, both came under fire earlier last month when they showed their support for gay Pride marches. Williams was told by a far-right leader in Bulgaria that he should "mind his own business", while Todd was accused of "representing the homosexual lobby".
In a couple of hand-written letters seen by PinkNews.co.uk, Bryant praised the courage of the pair, saying he felt it would give confidence to many. He told Todd: "We have not met but I wanted to congratulate you on your flying the rainbow flag next to the union flag last year and your UK guide to LGBT rights in Polish this year. I know you had some flak but frankly, all power to your elbow."
A similar letter, sent to Williams, read: "I just wanted to write and congratulate you on the message of support you sent to the Rainbow Friendship Rally in Sofia. I know you have come under attack in some quarters but I fully support what you have done. Britain supports everyone regardless of their sexuality and it is only right we make that clear. Responding to the criticisms of Todd and Williams, the Foreign Office said: "The FCO promotes human rights around the world regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Showing support for Pride events, where people seek to assert their rights and highlight the challenges they face, is part of this work."
Poland and Bulgaria were named in an EU report in March as two countries which routinely block gay events. A 2008 poll found that 80 per cent of Bulgarians have negative attitudes to gays and lesbians. Seventy per cent would not allow their child to be educated by a gay teacher and 50 per cent would not work with someone who was gay.
August 24, 2009 – PinkNews
Polish gay man wins damages from homophobic neighbour in landmark case
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
A Polish woman who repeatedly verbally abused one of her neighbours about his sexual orientation has been ordered to pay him more than £3,000 in damages. Known only as Anna S., the 44-year-old repeatedly targeted Ryszard Giersz, who lived in the same apartment block as her with his partner and members of his family. She has been banned from using the word ‘faggot’ and ordered to pay him PLN 15,000 (£3,194) in damages and court costs of PLN 4,000 (£852).
Anna S. said it was a huge fine for someone such as herself who relies on benefits and claimed all the witnesses in the case had lied. Judge Urszula Chmielewska said everyone has to right to live a normal life in society and for their sexual orientation to remain their private business. LGBT advocacy group Campaign Against Homophobia said it was the the first case in Poland where a gay person pursued their rights in a court of law so openly.
Gazeta Wyborcza reported that Mr Giersz and his boyfriend had stones and tomatoes thrown at them in the street and were verbally abused. He also had to change his job.
He told the paper: "I’m very happy. I’m a normal person and I just want to live with my partner. The last half-year was excruciating. I hope S. finally stops interfering with my life and offending me at every step. Perhaps we’ll manage to move out to a larger flat. Then we’ll no longer have to meet this lady. I didn’t regret for a single moment that I had decided to go to court. I hope this verdict makes people more tolerant and think twice before they offend someone who is simply different from them."
October 9, 2009 – PinkNews
Polish MEP Michal Kaminski says he will attend gay Tory event next year
by Jessica Geen
Polish MEP Michal Kaminski, who has been accused of homophobia, has said he would consider supporting civil partnerships and will attend Conservative Pride next year. Kaminski, who is a politician for the Law and Justice Party, is the president of the Tories’ new bloc in Europe. When he was invited by David Cameron to speak at the Conservative Party Conference this week, Stonewall chief Ben Summerskill boycotted a gay Tory event in protest.
In an interview with Total Politics magazine, Kaminski denied being homophobic and said that although he didn’t support gay marriage, he was prepared to consider voting for civil partnerships. On the accusation that he used the word ‘fags’ in a television interview in 2000, Kaminski told interviewer Iain Dale: "I used a word that is un-transferable into English, which homosexual people feel is offensive. So I said that I would never use it again, but it was in common usage at the time – even by the leftist politicians in Poland. We just discovered that the leftwing leader of the Polish parliament during an inquiry meeting used the same word about homosexuals.
"Today, we know more about homosexuals, and because they felt offended I said I would never repeat such words, and I think we have to respect people who feel that the language we are using is somehow offensive, and respect their right to be treated with civility. Kaminski added that he was "very proud" that Poland had been one of the first countries in Europe to decriminalise homosexuality and said: "I have nothing against them [gay people]. It’s deep in my belief that in a free society, your personal life and sexuality is your own concern. The state shouldn’t interfere, and shouldn’t prosecute."
When pressed on his opposition to gay marriage, he replied: "I am opposed to gay marriage because Poland is a different society and I believe in differences. In Poland today, it would be very difficult to get legislation through on civil partnerships. If you are talking about civil partnerships between people of whatever their sexual preferences, I personally have nothing against them.
"What I am opposed to is imputing the word marriage to this kind of relationship, because I would say that for historical and cultural reasons, marriage should be reserved for heterosexual couples. In my view, it’s not a question of sexual orientation but a freedom issue. If I want to make a social commitment with another citizen I should be allowed to do it."
Dale said he agreed that Kaminski on gay marriage and asked whether he would support civil partnerships. Kaminski said: "I would consider voting yes, but it depends on the subject. I have said in Poland that I don’t think that the state should interfere in personal relationships." However, Kaminski stated that he opposed gy adoption, saying that children should be raised by a man and a woman. When Dale said he agreed with that position but felt it better that children should be placed in a loving family rather than a care home, Kaminski said he did not think his belief was homophobic.
Dale said he had considered inviting the Polish politician to Conservative Pride, which he co-hosted, but felt that it would have "overshadowed the event". In reply, Kaminski said he would have been "more than happy" to attend and speak at the event and would do so next year. Other issues discussed in the interview were allegations of anti-semitism, the Jedwabne massacre and Kaminski’s regret for praising General Pinochet. Concluding, Dale wrote: "I went into the interview with an open mind. I came out absolutely convinced that Kaminski doesn’t have a homophobic or anti-semitic bone in his body."