Gay Poland News & Reports 2010

1 European court rules Poland discriminated against gay man 3/10

2 Poland to Stage Summer-Long Gay Themed Exhibition at National Museum 3/10

3 Polish President who said homosexuality will destroy human race dies in plane crash 4/10

4 Gay love exhibition opening in Warsaw museum 6/10

5 Homophobic Polish politician Jaroslaw Kaczynski loses presidential election 7/10

6 Poland hosts landmark European gay pride 7/10

7 Gay Parade in Warsaw Meets Jeers From Some 7/10

8 Warsaw’s gay pride reveals the face of modern Poland 7/10

9 Polish gay rights group angered over ‘homophobic’ textbook 8/10

10 In Poland, a Memorial Becomes a Battleground 9/10 (Non-gay background story)

10a First Polish Campaign for Civil Partnership Law 11/10

11 Polish Gay Activist: I Was Brutally Beaten by Police 11/10

12 Poland gets first out gay elected official 12/10

13 Love Does Not Exclude Public Media Project 12/10

March 3, 2010 – PinkNews

European court rules Poland discriminated against gay man

by Jessica Geen
The European Court of Human Rights ruled yesterday that Poland discriminated against a gay man for refusing to treat him and his partner in the same way as a straight married couple.
In the case, a gay man named as Piotr Kozak had been living with his partner TB since 1989 until 1998 when TB died. The tenancy agreement was in TB’s name and after his death Mr Kozak applied to authorities to conclude the lease agreement.

Although Poland, a deeply Catholic country, recognises some rights for cohabiting partners, authorities rejected Mr Kozak’s application on the grounds that the rights do not apply to gay couples. Authorities and courts in the country argued that the Polish constitution defines marriage as “a union of a man and a woman” and said this justified the refusal.

They subsequently argued that the only form of cohabitation which is recognised by the law is exclusively between a man and a woman. The European Court of Human Rights unanimously rejected this argument, ruling that Poland violated Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) and Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) by refusing to recognise cohabitation of gay partners. It said that “de facto marital cohabitation” must be understood to include persons in a same-sex relationship.

While it accepted Poland’s constitution, the court said the country needed to strike a balance between protecting the family and human rights legislation on LGBT people. Evelyne Paradis, executive director of ILGA-Europe, said: “We welcome this decision of the European Court of Human Rights. This is the second decision affirming that if a state provides certain rights to cohabiting different sex partners, the same rights have to be made available equally to same-sex partners.”

In 2003, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Austria discriminated against gay couples because it did not recognise same-sex partners in application of its tenancy law while recognising unmarried heterosexual partners.

March 14, 2010 – UK Gay News

Poland to Stage Summer-Long Gay Themed Exhibition at National Museum

Warsaw – Poland’s National Museum in Warsaw is to stage an “Ars Homo Erotica” exhibition this summer. It will present over 200 artworks from antiquity to the twenty-first century, with Greek vases with frolicking youths, male nudes by the “old masters and mistresses” of sculpture and painting to contemporary Central-Eastern European LGBT art commissioned especially for the exhibition.

Although lesbian and gay art has belonged to the canon of ‘museology’ since 1970s, there has not been yet such a comprehensive exhibition of homoeroticism in any world museum. It is also the first show of the queer art of Central and Eastern Europe. The exhibition opens on June 10 and will run until September 5, giving visitors to Warsaw for July’s staging of EuroPride an added attraction. A pioneering, multimedia exhibition Ars Homo Erotica will offer a radically different approach to the history of art, rethinking and “queering” the canons of representation.

Among the contemporary artists who have been commissioned are David Cerny of the Czech Republic, Anna Daucikova of Slovakia, and S and P Stanikas of Lithuania. The exhibition has been put together by Pawel Leszkowicz, Ph.D, a noted Polish art curator and lecturer/writer. He assembled the exhibition of contemporary queer art Love and Democracy in 2005, and wrote, with his partner Tomek Kitlinski, the book Love and Democracy. Reflections on the Homosexual Question in Poland.

In an introduction to the exhibition, Pawel Leszkowicz writes: “Since the fall of Communism (and with a number of art-historical antecedents!), the trend of gay and lesbian art has developed here. It functions in the very centre of social and political struggle for LGBTQ rights, freedom of expression and democracy. “The aims of the exhibition are scholarly and educational: to examine the tendencies of queer art in the context of art history and of current politics and society.”

April 10, 2010 – PinkNews

Polish President who said homosexuality will destroy human race dies in plane crash

by Staff Writer,
Polish President Lech Kaczynski who once said that the promotion of homosexuality would lead to the eventual destruction of the human race has died in a plane crash near Smolensk in Russia. Kaczynski’s right wing Law and Justice party are in an alliance with the British Conservative party in the European Parliament. Gordon Brown and David Cameron paid tribute to Kaczynski.

Regional report that 87 people were killed in the incident and the local government have said there were no survivors and Kaczynski has been confirmed among the dead. Also on board the plane was the former Polish deputy prime minister, Jaruga-Nowacka, one of the country’s most outspoken advocates of gay rights.

Lech Kaczynski and his twin brother Jaroslaw Kaczynski are major figures in right wing, homophobic Polish politics. Jaroslaw was until recently the prime minister of Poland. Lech had previously been the Mayor of Warsaw and reached international notoriety because of repeatedly banning gay pride marches from taking place in the city.

Kaczynski was accused of homophobia when in 2007 as President he was challenged over this decision, and said: " "If that kind of approach to sexual life were to be promoted on a grand scale, the human race would disappear. Imagine what grand changes would occur in mores if the traditional links between men and women were set aside." Following the 2009 European Parliament elections, David Cameron‘s Conservative party joined Kaczynski’s Law and Justice Party in a new right wing alliance within the Parliament.

Mr Cameron was widely criticised for inviting a colleague of the Kaczynski twins to speak to the 2009 Conservative party conference. Following the crash Mr Cameron said Mr Kaczynski was a "very brave Polish patriot who stood up for freedom". "He suffered hugely under communism and always stood up for his beliefs, and for his great faith in his country," he added.

British prime minister Gordon Brown said: "I think the whole world will be saddened and in sorrow as a result of the tragic death in a plane crash of President Kaczynski and his wife Maria and the party that were with them," he said. "We know the difficulties that Poland has gone through, the sacrifices that he himself made as part of the Solidarity movement. "

Today, Smolensk regional governor Sergei Antufiev told Russian TV: "as it was preparing for landing, the Polish president’s aircraft did not make it to the landing strip."

"According to preliminary reports, it got caught up in the tops of trees, fell to the ground and broke up into pieces. There are no survivors in that crash. We are clarifying how many people there were in the [Polish] delegation. According to preliminary reports, 85 members of the delegation and the crew."

June 10, 2010 – AP

Gay love exhibition opening in Warsaw museum

(AP) – Warsaw, Poland — The director of Poland’s National Museum says it is opening an exhibition on gay and lesbian love designed to provoke discussion on the place of homosexuals in this conservative and overwhelmingly Catholic country. The head of the National Museum in Warsaw, Piotr Piotrowski, said Wednesday the museum is already getting protests from various groups, even before the exhibition has opened.

The exhibition will run from June 11 through Sept 5 and primarily features male nudes and same sex couples depicted in ancient sculpture and contemporary painting and photography. Last year, Culture Minister Bogdan Zdrojewski spoke in defense of the exhibition after an opposition lawmaker protested the project.

July 5, 2010 – PinkNews

Homophobic Polish politician Jaroslaw Kaczynski loses presidential election

by Staff Writer
Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the homophobic right-wing Polish politician, has lost a presidential election. The election was called after the death of his twin, the late president Lech Kaczynski, in a plane crash in April. According to exit polls, interim president Bronislaw Komorowski will take office with 52.63 per cent of the vote, while Mr Kaczynski, chair of the Polish Law and Justice Party, won 47.37 per cent.

Both Kaczynski brothers have made a number of offensive homophobic remarks over the years, with Jaroslow saying: “The affirmation of homosexuality will lead to the downfall of civilisation." Lech had previously been the Mayor of Warsaw and reached international notoriety for repeatedly banning gay pride marches from taking place in the city. Jaroslaw, a former Polish prime minister who lost his post in 2007, was expected to continue his brother’s policies if he won the presidency.

Meanwhile, Mr Komorrowski, of the ruling Civic Platform party, has more centrist and liberal views. The death of Lech Kaczynski and the failure of his brother to replace him mean the Civic Platform party will no longer find its liberal initiatives blocked by presidential veto. Last year, the UK Conservative Party was criticised for joining a grouping in the European parliament with the Kaczynskis’ Law and Justice Party. Prime minister David Cameron responded that the Polish party was on a "journey" towards better understanding of LGBT issues.

He told in April: "I would say there are partners of the Liberal Democrats who refer to homosexuality as a plague. How many times have you read that in the Guardian? There are partners of Labour that were collaborators with the communist regime in Poland that locked people up and was responsible for appalling human rights abuses. Our point is that it is good to have a new group that is against a federal Europe, that wants free trade, co-operation and progress in Europe. And yes, some countries, particularly some of the Catholic countries, do have very conservative social views. They are on a journey in respect of that and it is a journey we can help them with."

17 July 2010 – BBC

Poland hosts landmark European gay pride

EuroPride marchers in Warsaw, attendance was lower than expected. Several thousand people have attended a European-wide gay rights parade in the Polish capital Warsaw. It was the first time the annual EuroPride march was being held in Central or Eastern Europe. Several small counter-demonstrations were also held and some people hurled eggs and abuse at those in the parade. A BBC correspondent says gay people in staunchly Roman Catholic Poland find it hard to be open about their sexuality. Church leaders and politicians regularly speak out against homosexuality, Adam Easton reports from Warsaw.

EuroPride’s organisers say they want to fight discrimination against homosexuality and promote a debate about legalising same-sex relationships in Poland.
Vuvuzelas and drums The colourful parade began to the sound of pounding drums and vuvuzelas, our correspondent says. Gay rallies in Warsaw Floats covered in rainbow flags and balloons carried politicians from Poland and across Europe.

One person was dressed in a devil mask and horns – a cheeky reference, perhaps, to the controversy this year’s EuroPride has caused in Poland, our correspondent says. "We feel like they are 20 years behind the Netherlands," said Ad Bakker, a 39-year-old from Holland who travelled to Warsaw to show solidarity with Polish friends. "But the atmosphere is good and we hope that EuroPride will help," he told the Associated Press news agency.

A Polish friend of his, Sebastian Blaszczyk, 36, said the situation was improving every year but Poland still had far to go in accepting gay people. While EuroPride’s organisers had hoped a minimum of 20,000 people from across Europe would join the event, police estimates put the figure at several thousand. By comparison, more than a million people attended a gay pride march in Madrid three years ago, our correspondent adds. Warsaw’s authorities were given a petition with more than 50,000 signatures from anti-gay groups demanding the cancellation of the event.

British solidarity
In a recent survey, almost two-thirds of respondents said homosexual couples should not be open about their sexuality. It is extremely rare to see gay couples holding hands even in Warsaw, Poland’s most cosmopolitan city, our correspondent says. Those who do face verbal or physical violence, such as Ryszard Giersz, 25, from a small town near the German border. He won a small amount of damages in court last year after neighbours repeatedly verbally abused him and threw tomatoes and stones at him. The UK’s ruling Conservative Party sent its most senior openly gay member to the event.

Nick Herbert told the BBC his presence at the parade illustrated Britain’s support for human rights. "Equality, respect for human rights, is fundamental for the ethos of the European Union and I think it’s entirely appropriate and right that the British Government should be represented here by me and the ambassador in saying that we stand full square behind these values," he said. Mr Herbert said his party and its coalition partner the Liberal Democrats had a "really ambitious programme of reform and entrenching equality for LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] people".

July 17, 2010 – The New York Times

Gay Parade in Warsaw Meets Jeers From Some

by Nicholas Kulish
Warsaw — Rainbow flags flying, Village People and Madonna songs pumping from the floats, drag queens waving like royalty to the crowds: some things are the same at gay pride parades everywhere. But the thousands of police officers holding back clusters of jeering, egg-throwing youths here on Saturday served as a reminder that Poland was not quite Holland when it came to gay demonstrations.
Thousands of gay men and lesbians marched in support of equal rights and greater tolerance in the EuroPride 2010 parade in Warsaw.

Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals not just from Poland but from all over Europe and North America marched and danced their way through downtown Warsaw, calling for greater tolerance and equal rights, in particular the right to marry or at least to be joined in civil partnerships. The event, the first Europewide gay pride parade held in a former Communist bloc country, revealed a place where gays and lesbians aspired to the level of acceptance found in Western European cities like Amsterdam and London, yet remained part of a deeply Catholic society that was still significantly more opposed to homosexuality than in the West and where politicians did not seem ready, or perhaps willing, to change that.

It was most likely the largest gathering of its kind in Polish history, but its 8,000 participants made up just a fraction of the 50,000 people who took part in last year’s parade, in Zurich. For the most part, Saturday’s parade went smoothly, but it was met with resistance from a population ill at ease with open displays of homosexuality. Many gay men and lesbians here say they continue to fear repercussions from coming out of the closet.

“I lived in Berlin and, there and here, they are simply two different worlds,” said Tomasz Baczkowski, head of the Equality Foundation and an organizer of this year’s EuroPride event. It was just five years ago that Lech Kaczynski, Poland’s president who died in a plane crash in April, banned Warsaw’s annual gay pride parade in 2005 when he was the city’s mayor. Mr. Baczkowski was among the plaintiffs in a 2007 lawsuit before the European Court of Human Rights that successfully challenged the ban.

Since then, Mr. Baczkowski said, “things have developed quickly, but not quickly enough for us.” He said he hoped to see Poland legalize gay marriages within three to four years, as Argentina did on Thursday. But a sociology professor at Warsaw University, Ireneusz Krzeminski, said the political culture was not yet ready. “In Poland,” he said, “we still do not have major politicians directed toward changing this rather hostile attitude toward Polish gays.”

Mr. Krzeminski, who is gay himself, said he found hope in the millions of Poles who have traveled abroad since the country joined the European Union in 2004, especially those who lived and worked in other countries like Britain, and who saw being gay in a much more normal and positive context. Wojtek Kobylski, 42, said he had seen improvement not just in Warsaw but outside the capital in more conservative corners of Poland, where he performs in drag. “Every year there are fewer negative reactions,” said Mr. Kobylski, who was wearing a long platinum-blond wig and three-inch-long fake eyelashes as parade volunteers decked out their floats with colorful balloons and D.J.’s tested their sound systems.

After performing at a show in Warsaw, he was invited to perform in the city of Olsztyn, in the northeastern part of the country, said Mr. Kobylski, who as Tatiana sings old Russian and Polish songs. Now he appears there once a month. “People see that the gay clubs are more friendly,” he said, “that these are the places where there are no fights and you can have fun.” Yet the parade got off to an ugly start. As it reached Senatorska and Marszalkowska Streets downtown, youths chanted obscenities and yelled at the marchers to leave, before hurling eggs and plastic bottles at the first float to pass. About 2,000 police officers were there to control the crowd, one for every four people who took part in the march. A Swiss man, who said he was there to show his support, remarked that he had never seen so much security at a gay pride parade in his life.

Another parade organizer, Krzysztof Kliszczynski, said that was because “it’s still happening that gays and lesbians are being attacked on the streets.” A counterdemonstration by the conservative, right-wing group All-Polish Youth drew 200 to 300 participants, according to police estimates. “Polish society is much more conservative than the establishment,” said the group’s president, Robert Winnicki, 25. “Polish society is more passive. People do not take part in the public debate. We are the voice of the majority.” The Warsaw police detained eight people for upsetting the parade by attacking police officers, throwing eggs or tearing down flags. One participant was detained for drug possession. Those disturbances were the exception, however, on an afternoon whose scorching temperatures hardly dented the festive atmosphere.

The march was demure compared to similar events in cities like New York or Berlin. A few men decided to forgo shirts in the heat, while another group dressed in feathered carnival outfits, but otherwise it was a clothed and orderly procession. “Maybe we have a little different morality, but I can’t imagine many homosexuals here in Poland who want to be naked on a platform. It’s not our tradition,” said Joanna Hald, 41, a translator with a black bandana and a battle-ax tattoo, who was riding with a lesbian motorcycle group.

She had lived in Denmark for 18 years, where she started an Internet forum for Polish lesbians, Ms. Hald said. Asked what brought her back to Poland, she replied, “My wife.” She said several other women had decided not to ride because they feared they would be recognized and “might get fired.” “I’m a freelancer,” Ms. Hald said, “so I can’t get fired.”

Joanna Berendt contributed reporting.

19 July 2010 – The Guardian

Warsaw’s gay pride reveals the face of modern Poland –
Thousands of Poles turned out to watch the parade on Saturday. Few outsiders realise how fast the country is changing

by Kamil Tchorek
The policing minister, Nick Herbert, was in Warsaw on Saturday, where I had a chat with him before he clambered aboard the main float of the Europride 2010 parade. Her Majesty’s ambassador to Poland, Ric Todd, was also there, sporting a traditional panama hat, which stood out in the sea of curly rainbow wigs, pink feather boas and a pair of fake breasts.
Is Nick’s message, I wondered, to open British minds about Poland, or to open Polish minds about gay rights? Perhaps it is both. Or perhaps it is neither, and more about Conservative party public relations than anything else.

Everyone knows Poland is a Catholic country, but few outsiders realise quite how fast this country is changing. On one hand, civil partnerships seem some way off, few Polish politicians endorsed Europride, and there was a big petition against it. Nobody forgets that, because of low voter turnout, an appalling (though small) fringe-right party, the League of Polish Families, joined a minority coalition government in 2006.

On the other hand, record turnout in Poland’s 2007 general election saw the League lose all parliamentary seats, and produced a landslide win for the liberal Civic Platform government. The Conservative opposition leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, (whose Law and Justice party is allied with the Tories), says his short-lived pact with the League was a mistake. Poland is the first ex-communist state in the EU to host Europride, which is a reasonable achievement, but not that surprising: the country has long pioneered tolerance, from the Statute of Kalisz to the Confederation of Warsaw to being the first European country to decriminalise homosexuality in 1932 (it took 35 years for Britain to catch up). Local "tolerance parades" have taken place in Poland for years, even when a former Warsaw mayor, the late Lech Kaczynski, refused to authorise one (he didn’t actually stop it, as is mistakenly said).

There’s something holier-than-thou in the western media that isn’t based on up-to-date experience of Polish culture, politics and society – it seems to be about liberals working themselves up into a frenzy of self-righteousness that is as exhilarating as rightwing hate-speak itself. Hopefully, Europride Warsaw 2010 has also weakened that prejudice.

On Saturday, the view of the estimated 8,000 revellers (most of them Poles) to their audience of several thousand (also Poles, of course) was telling. First, there were about 2,000 police on the street – gay rights demonstrators could not have felt safer. The officers tended to look either indifferent or openly entertained. I spotted one angry counterdemonstration of about 35 skinheads, who had been rounded up into a tight circle by three ranks of beefy, black-clad, baton-wielding riot police. Apparently, eggs and plastic bottles had been thrown. There was a second group, of at most 20 youths, representing the Narodowe Odrodzenie Polski – who sniggered at their own adolescent, homophobic jokes like a class of confused British schoolboys.

Nick put it like this: "How many protesters were there compared with the numbers of people marching? They really were a tiny minority of protesters," he said. "There’s thousands of people here who are in support of this." There may have been other protest groups, but I didn’t see them. They were completely outnumbered by the several thousand ordinary Polish pedestrians who had also come to see what was going on, many of whom joined the parade. There were very old Poles and very young Poles, people carrying shopping bags and newspapers, fruit-sellers from the local countryside, yuppies talking on iPhones. Almost all this diverse audience of Poles shared the same expression: they were smiling. This is surely what the organisers had hoped to achieve, and it is surely what politicians will notice.

August 26, 2010 – PinkNews

Polish gay rights group angered over ‘homophobic’ textbook

by Christopher Brocklebank
A Polish gay rights group has requested their country’s government withdraw a textbook used in secondary schools, claiming that it portrays homosexuality as an illness. The Diversity Workshop, An LGBTQ organisation based in the Polish city of Torun, say that the book, which is also used in family and sex education classes, restricts its views on LGBT people to a narrow, traditional view of homosexuality espoused by Poland’s powerful Catholic Church.

However, the Polish education ministry reportedly took no action over the complaint, stating that textbooks were approved on the advice of experts and individual teachers were free to choose which ones they used. The Diversity Workshop’s Przemek Szczeplocki said: "[The book] remains silent on the problems of homophobia and discrimination and presents the theory that homosexuality is something one can reject and that one can return to ‘normality’.

"This kind of attitude deepens the lack of acceptance for gays, lesbians and bisexuals and perpetuates a belief that some sexual orientations are weird, and this is hurtful," he added. However, Mr Szczeplocki added that the current edition of the textbook took a less extreme stance than an earlier one, which he said had put homosexuality on a par with incest and pedophilia.

Grzegorz Zurawski, an education ministry spokesman said that the gay rights group would be better served if it addressed its concerns to teachers and the book’s publishers. "We tell our experts to pay particular attention to any racial, sexual or religious discrimination before approving a textbook, and in this case they found no such issues. We can’t withdraw a book simply because a group of people disagree with the theories expounded by the scholars who wrote it," he said.

September 1, 2010 – The New York Times

In Poland, a Memorial Becomes a Battleground

by Judy Dempsey
Warsaw — Every day, a small group of protesters gathers across the street from Poland’s presidential palace. Some kneel, others weep before pictures of those who died last April when the plane carrying President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and 94 other Polish politicians and civil servants crashed in western Russia.
The demonstrators’ main focus is a simple, wooden cross of 4 meters, or 13 feet, that was erected outside the presidential palace soon after the crash in Smolensk. They say they have no intention of giving up their vigil or of taking down the cross until a monument to Mr. Kaczynski and the other victims of the Smolensk crash is placed in front of the presidential palace.

Last month, the authorities cordoned off part of the street — one of the city’s most popular — in order to prevent clashes between supporters of the cross and thousands of young secular people who demanded that the cross be taken out of public view and moved to a church. Since then, there has been a standoff between the demonstrators who call themselves the Defenders of the Cross and the authorities.

“The whole issue has become immensely complicated,” said Marek A. Cichocki, a lecturer at Natolin European Center in Warsaw. “These people sitting it out on the street are all alone. There is no institution willing to negotiate a reasonable compromise. It should be the responsibility of the church and the city and the government to do that,” added Mr. Cichocki, who was Mr. Kaczynski’s foreign policy adviser. Tensions between secular and devout Catholics are nothing new in post-Communist Poland. But these latest demonstrations by the Defenders of the Cross show how patriotism, religion and politics have become so entangled that neither the government, or for that matter the Polish Episcopate, is prepared to take any risks.

“The cross has become a religious, patriotic and political symbol that makes the demonstrators almost untouchable,” said Jacek Kucharczyk, director of the Institute of Public Affairs, an independent research organization in Warsaw. “This is a test of the church’s influence and those political parties who hide behind the cross.”

Under Communism, the Polish Catholic Church had enormous influence. Catholicism and national identity became inseparable in the struggle against Communist rule. Both the church and society were given a huge boost when the archbishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla, was elected Pope John Paul II in 1978. His visit to Poland in 1979 gave Poles the inspiration and courage to establish the independent Solidarity trade union movement that was ultimately to dislodge, peacefully, the Communists from power in 1989.

Since then, the church has fought hard to retain its status as defender of traditional values. It has found allies among the nationalist-conservative Law and Justice party led by Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of the former president. During the presidential campaign last June, priests urged worshipers to vote for Mr. Kaczynski, some even saying it would be a sin if worshipers voted for Bronislaw Komorowski, a supporter of the center-right Civic Platform government who was eventually elected president. Yet when it comes to the Defenders of the Cross, the Polish Episcopate has been strangely ambiguous.

Last month, the archbishop of Warsaw, Kazimierz Nycz, suggested that the cross be moved from the presidential palace to a nearby church. He also warned against using the cross for political reasons. “The issue got out of control during the presidential election campaign,” Archbishop Nycz said. The Defenders of the Cross refused to budge, and so far, the church has left the cross in place. “The demonstrators have become awkward for the Polish Episcopate,” said Mr. Cichocki.

But the Polish Episcopate also hesitates to fully take up the cause of the Defenders of the Cross. That could galvanize support for the opposition Democratic Left Alliance, or former Communist party, which has pledged to “de-clericalize” the state by barring clergy from state ceremonies, withdrawing the church’s budget allocations and curbing the clergy’s business activities and its tax exemptions.

There is another reason for the church’s ambivalence. It is grappling with child abuse cases as well as cases of priests and bishops who had collaborated with the Communist secret police — eroding the trust of many of the faithful. It simply cannot afford to alienate more believers or deter young recruits.

Over the past decade, the number of candidates for priesthood has declined 30 percent, according to the Conference of the Polish Episcopate. Admissions to the church’s 84 seminaries have plummeted 30 percent in the past three years. Admissions to female religious orders have halved, falling 15 percent last year alone. And even though nine-tenths of Poland’s 38 million inhabitants still call themselves Roman Catholics, the majority follow their own interpretation of the church’s pronouncements on moral issues, according to opinion polls.

Because of these problems, Mr. Cichocki says the church has shown little courage in trying to end the dispute over the cross. But neither has Donald Tusk, the prime minister and leader of Civic Platform. Without informing the demonstrators or the public, Mr. Tusk recently and almost secretly unveiled a commemorative plaque to the Smolensk victims on the wall of the Presidential Palace. He said he hoped it would end the dispute, but that clearly has not happened.

The longer the government and the church allow the dispute to drag on, the more likely the Defenders of the Cross and the Law and Justice party will use it to gain support before parliamentary elections next year. This will only sharpen the divisions between secularists and the church, said Mr. Kucharczyk. Unless the Polish Episcopate, the president and the government negotiate, the victims of the Smolensk crash will become pawns for political and religious interests, he added.

November 7, 2010 – Wojciech Szot

First Polish Campaign for Civil Partnership Law
(‘Love Does Not Exclude’)

LGBT community worlwide:
We are the coordinators of the first Polish campaign about civil partnership law – Love Doesn’t Exclude. In Warsaw and Lodz (the biggest cities in Poland) we start with billboards with two slogans:

1. Those children they will not have equal rights
2. We demand a civil partnership law

You can see our posters here……….We also have internet advert of campaining with english subtitles

The aim of the campaign is to draw attention to the fact that Poland has no civil partnerships law, and Polish legislation provides no regulations for same-sex couples.

Today, Poland is the biggest European Union Member State in which same-sex couples are invisible for the law. The law ensures no legal protection to them, does not regulate their situation, takes in fact no account of their existence. This is unfair. This is an exclusion – in many areas of life.??Poland is also one of the very few European countries where the authorities have not taken up any measures whatsoever in this area. One of the aims of our campaign is to show that legal frameworks for same-sex relationships are a European civilisational standard and that social evolution in this area has not bypassed Poland. Our law, however, does not follow the reality in this respect, and the authorities refrain from any dialogue with the society at large and with our interest group.

“Love Does Not Exclude” is therefore an expression of this very pressing social need – the voice of those who are invisible to the law and ignored by politicians. For half a year now we’ve been hearing that a debate should be held in the Polish parliament, but will this happen before the parliamentary elections? Will the government and the opposition listen to their electorate? The creation of – any – legal framework for same-sex couples in Poland is an increasingly urgent issue. We don’t want to keep pleading or asking. With the “Love Does Not Exclude” campaign we want to show that the time of demanding has come. We have the right to equality! We don’t want to be excluded any more! We demand civil partnerships law!

Another aim of our campaign is to show that a social action can be carried out without official grants or European funding. The background of our activities consists of voluntary work and donations – even the smallest ones – from our sponsors, both companies and private persons. We want to show that even the tiniest gestures count and that the fight for civil partnerships can be fought in all scales, large and small. The “Love Does Not Exclude” campaign, consisting of four elements (social networking on Facebook and Twitter, billboards, webpage, public event), is founded on its recipients – ordinary people who care for changing the Polish reality.

Check our FB page , more information about campaign on our site

Wojciech Szot

November 14, 2010 – UK Gay News

Polish Gay Activist: I Was Brutally Beaten by Police – KPH demands official investigation

Warsaw – A member of the board of the Polish gay rights group Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH) was arrested and beaten by police officers in Warsaw on Thursday afternoon, the group revealed today. Robert Biedron was observing, on behalf of KPH, the ‘Independence March’ organised by radical right wing nationalist groups National Radical Camp (ONR) and the All-Polish Youth (MW). Antifascist groups tried to block the march. “I went there as an observer for the Campaign Against Homophobia,” Mr Biedron told a press conference at the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights on Friday.

He told of how he and several others were “pinned to parked cars. “They took out individual people, including me, from the crowd,” Mr Biedron said. “But the worst thing happened in the police car. There, I was left alone with an officer. And, in simple words, I was brutally beaten. I’ve dealt with human rights protection for many years now and I’m devastated by what happened.”

Mr. Biedron was subsequently taken to a police station where he was held for 20 hours without being allowed to contact a lawyer or his next of kin. According to the daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, the police pressed charges of battery of a police officer against Mr Biedron. “It has been the victim who has had charges pressed against him,” Jacek Dubois, Mr Biedron’s lawyer told the newspaper. “The accusation is comical, made by a comedian rather than a lawyer.”

Mr. Dubois added that the matter had been reported to the Warsaw Sródmiescie-Pólnoc Prosecutor’s Office. Gazeta Wyborcza reported that, “according to the police, Mr Biedron grabbed the policeman’s baton and then hit him in the face”. “You know me, I’ve never displayed any aggression against anyone, and I’d certainly never display aggression against a uniformed police officer in full gear,” Mr Biedron assured the newspaper.

Mr Biedron suffered a spine injury, bruising and chafes. “Regretfully, some police officers did not withstand the tension of the ensuing events and became violent,” Tomasz Szypula, president of KPH said in a statement issued today (Sunday).

“Robert Biedron, member of the KPH Board and its former President, accidentally fell victim to this violent behaviour. He was apprehended and beaten, not only at the moment of arrest, but also later, when he was handcuffed in a police car. For over 20 hours he was not advised of the grounds of the apprehension, the police did not provide him with the record of apprehension and denied him contact with his lawyer and his next of kin.

“We are appalled and saddened by the conduct of the police. We fail to understand how such situations can still take place in a democratic state. For many years now, KPH has worked with the police to further improve the enjoyment of human rights and freedoms. On 11 November our trust in the police was abused. We demand that the misconduct of the officers be investigated and the perpetrators be punished. At the same time, we would like to thank many wonderful people for their support and help in this difficult time for Robert himself and for an entire community of people whose everyday work is an effort to effectively put into practice and protect human rights,” the statement concluded.

3 December 2010 – PinkNews

Poland gets first out gay elected official

by Staff Writer
Krystian Legierski has become Poland’s first openly gay elected official. The nightclub owner, entrepreneur and LGBT rights activist won a seat on Warsaw city council last month. The Green party member ran on a Social Democrat ticket.

Mr Legierski, who is black, has suffered racism and homophobic but told Gazeta Wyborcza that although his election was a breakthrough for national politics, the residents of Warsaw are more open-minded. He said: “I can’t compare myself to Harvey Milk, but I’m glad that I am the first openly gay candidate to be elected for a public office in Poland.”

Warsaw hosted Europride earlier in July but Poland has had an uneasy relationship with gay rights over the years. The country is deeply Catholic and conservative and human rights groups say it has a poor record on gay equality. Late president Lech Kaczynski, who died in a plane crash in April, had been accused of homophobia on a number of occasions.

Homosexuality is legal in Poland but couples cannot adopt children and there is no legal recognition of their relationships.

December 12, 2010 – Wojciech Szot

Love Does Not Exclude Public Media Project

The Polish campaign for same-sex civil partnerships "Love Does Not Exclude”, which started in November 2010 in Warsaw and Lódz, will be continued in smaller cities and towns in Poland. The locations are being selected by Internet users, and campaign organisers tailor the advertising presentation to each one. As expected, in the first location, the town of Inowroclaw in the Kujawsko-Pomorskie region, we encountered obstacles. The owner of advertising media in buses refused to sell the advertising space for the campaign, explaining: "Our company will never consent to publish any controversial posters, be they about love that doesn’t exclude or about escort agencies."

We hope this will prove to be an exceptional situation, but on the other hand we are aware that such a reaction may happen again. In larger Polish cities tolerance and understanding for LGBT rights are rather widespread, and political correctness seems well grounded; in smaller cities and towns, however, LGBT persons often face homophobia. We are therefore convinced that this is precisely where the campaign should be visible, to communicate with the straight majority – but also to tell young LGBT persons that they are not left alone.

Poland has 16 administrative regions and in 16 months we plan to visit one town in each of them. More info about campaign on our website

On 20th November – one day before local government elections – a demonstration was organised in front of Warsaw University as part of the campaign "Love Does Not Exclude”. In the most popular weekend venue of our city we spoke about same-sex partnerships and presented our huge banner saying "We demand civil partnership law". We plan to organise such events from time to time to demand the introduction of the law on same-sex partnerships (draft project in Polish can be found on our website). Unfortunately, politicians’ interest in the matter is scarce, but we hope this may change with the coming parliamentary elections. I attached two photos from demonstration.

You can see our posters here, we also have internet advert of campaing with english subtitles. Check our FB page, more information about campaign on our site

Best regards,
Wojciech Szot