A lot of emphasis has been made on the anti-democratic agenda of the Law and Justice Party (PiS) government in Poland . Head of Poland Supreme Court says the country is moving towards an authoritarian state . Poland is recently encountered with the PiS government. Their single-party rule was started in 2015. They were also in coalition government between 2005-2007, despite founded in 2001 by Kaczyński brothers. Yet, their influence is much more than this relatively short period of time. Their authoritarian policies did not start suddenly.
There are some important examples back in time. Lech Kaczyński, who died in a plane crash in 2010, was the mayor of Warsaw between 2002 and 2005 before he became the president of the state. When he was the mayor of Warsaw, he banned LGBT+ Pride Parade in the city both in 2004 and 2005. His reason was simply that the event was promoting “homosexual lifestyle” . Moreover, he said that “I do not plan to persecute homosexuals or to hinder their careers. But there is no reason to encourage it because it would mean that mankind would slowly die out” . A politician of that time allegedly said that the police should beat gay rights groups if they march . Despite its official ban, about 2500 people marched in 2005 as an act of civil disobedience and some of them were even politicians like deputy Prime Minister of that time. In 2006, there was no official ban and about 20000 people marched, it was the crowdest parade so far. This is a good example of right-wing populist action and polarization. Somer and McCoy says “populist leaders generally employ polarizing language and often generate antipopulist counter-mobilizations.” It is a common strategy that political oppositions use against populist leaders . So, populist discourse does not only divide the country between groups, and mobilize its own supporters, it also creates a backlash from the opposite side and help them to mobilize, as well, which may be useful to become more aware and informed.
There were lots of pressure inside and outside against this ban at that time. However, it did not change the attitude of Kaczyński. He was elected as President of Poland in late 2005. The first action of the new cabinet was “closing down the Office of Government Representative for the Equal Status of Women and Men” . Their attitude towards LGBT+ members looks very certain in a sense that is harmful for human rights and a functioning democracy. The emphasize is alwasy on the traditional conservative family values with a Catholic emphasis.
The hostile attitude towards LGBT+ community have not changed so much, so far. Some says Poland is “one of the lowest levels of acceptance of gay people in the EU” . The police forces have to protect people who joins the parade because there appear some counter-protesters around the parade, who show the crucifix and try to abuse the community . It is one of the most obvious example that shows the coalition of the Church and PiS. The archbishop of Krakow can easily say Poland is “no longer affected by red plague” but rather it is under siege from a “rainbow plague” . Whereas, current PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczyński once described the pride marches as “traveling theaters,” and said “we are the ones who are harmed by this,” and added that the law must be fully enforced to regulate it . One other example is former Prime Minister of Poland from PiS, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, said “homosexuality is not natural. What is natural is the family, and the state is obliged to protect the family” . It appears that LGBT+ community appears as a direct threat to the PiS and the family and society values that they try to emphasize all the time.
Poland’s democracy percentage was decreased from 80 to 65 within 5 years according to Freedom House . The attacks on the LGBT+ community is one of the key reasons for this decrease. With the continuation of the current PiS government and their policies, we would expect harder times for the LGBT+ community, because in time, the hate speeches and hostile acts against them have dramatically increased.
Cover image: Agencja Gazeta/Jedrzej Nowicki from Police Presence Strong at Polish Pride March in Wake of Violence. Reuters, 10 Aug. 2019, https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-gay-pride-poland/police-presence-strong-at-polish-pride-march-in-wake-of-violence-idUKKCN1V00KH Poland’s Ruling Party Just Made Its Anti-Democratic Agenda Radically Clear. Washington Post, 13 Sept. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/09/13/polands-ruling-party-just-made-its-anti-democratic-agenda-radically-clear/.  Polish State Becoming Authoritarian, Top Judge Gersdorf Says. BBC News, 30 May 2020, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-52489336.  Gay Marchers Ignore Ban in Warsaw. BBC News, 11 June 2005, news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4084324.stm.  Thousands Rally for Gay March in Warsaw. Deutsche Welle, 10 June 2006, www.dw.com/en/thousands-rally-for-gay-march-in-warsaw/a-2051002.  Fears of Poland’s Gay Community, 10 June 2006, news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/5068318.stm.  McCoy, Jennifer, and Murat Somer. “Toward a Theory of Pernicious Polarization and How It Harms Democracies: Comparative Evidence and Possible Remedies.” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 681, no. 1, Jan. 2019, pp. 234–271., doi:10.1177/0002716218818782. Pages 244 and 255.  Abramowicz, Marta, ed. Situation of bisexual and homosexual persons in Poland: 2005 and 2006 report. Campaign Against Homophobia and Lambda Warsaw, March 2007. https://web.archive.org/web/20111219083350/http://www.kph.org.pl/publikacje/sytuacja_bi_homo_2007_EN.pdf. (Interestingly, while researching the topic I was able to reach the original site. When I tried later, the site was gone. However, I luckily saved the site to the Wayback Machine, a program that is helping to save the site’s current version, so that it is shown the saved versions later. So, the link is from Wayback Machine.)  Thousands Turn out for Warsaw Gay Pride Parade. Deutsche Welle, 11 June 2016, www.dw.com/en/thousands-turn-out-for-warsaw-gay-pride-parade/a-19323884.  Police Presence Strong at Polish Pride March in Wake of Violence. Reuters, 10 Aug. 2019, https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-gay-pride-poland/police-presence-strong-at-polish-pride-march-in-wake-of-violence-idUKKCN1V00KH.  Unrest Feared as Poland Catholic Church Doubles down on Anti-Gay Rhetoric. NBC News, 2 Aug. 2019, www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/unrest-feared-poland-catholic-church-doubles-down-anti-gay-rhetoric-n1038656.  Polish Politician Condemns Gay Pride Marches as Election Nears. NBC News, 19 Aug. 2019, www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/polish-politician-condemns-gay-pride-marches-election-nears-n1043881.  Nations in Transit 2020 | Poland. Freedom House, https://freedomhouse.org/country/poland/nations-transit/2020.
This post illuminates the Polish government’s actions against civil liberties, especially those having to deal with LGBTQ rights. However, the role of the church in Polish government affairs cannot be understated. The Catholic Church of Poland has endured through the territorial and governmental changes throughout Polish history. Nearly 90% of Poles belong to the Catholic church. This means that the church has a lot of powerful influence, even in government. Therefore, the complete separation of church and state is often disputed in Poland. This is evident in their anti-LGBTQ laws and abortion laws. This October, the Polish government passed a bill restricting almost all access to an abortion legally. From the passing of the bill, thousands have taken to the streets in Poland protesting the restrictions. It is speculated that this bill was pushed by the Polish Catholic Church to the judicial system ruled by PiS. There are also reports of PiS becoming too involved with the Catholic Church for a governmental organization. This is reflected not by government standards, but the power the church has over governmental and controversial issues. The restriction of LGBTQ rights and abortion rights rightfully raises suspicions over the role of the church in Polish governmental affairs. Though the separation of church and state is found in the Polish constitution, it is difficult to see this as the truth in practice based on the restrictions placed targeting controversial church-related issues. As the church becomes more involved in Polish politics, we can expect the Polish democracy to continue to erode.
I was generally unaware of the extensive LGBTQ+ discrimination in Poland, so from the very start, this was a shocking read. It’s interesting that the leaders of the country practice such blatant hatred and are so open about suppressing that freedom of expression; Americans are so used to at least mild attempts at political correctness in these situations. It is crushing to see the attacks on the institutions that protect the LGBTQ+ community, particularly the dismantling of political branches meant to work in their favor. I would be interested to know more about specific activists or rights groups that are working against these changes in the country and also how other European countries are responding.
This was quite an interesting post. I was completely unaware of the conditions for the LGBT community in Poland. Unfortunately, this is all too common. Right-wing parties are consistently launching attacks on the LGBT community worldwide. PiS appears to be well-known as a right-wing party capable of eroding democracy on a large scale. This appears to be obvious based on your observations on the Democracy percentage provided by Freedom House. The PiS appears to be pushing towards an exit from the European Union. This continues to be on-brand for the right-wing politics of Europe as Italian conservative parties are pushing towards the same thing while undermining political institutions. A good example would be the continued attacks on judges who are viewed as communists because they oppose right-wing policies. This was a very interesting post.