Jacek Jaśkowiak, one of the two contenders to be the main opposition party’s candidate in next year’s presidential elections, has declared his support for legalising same-sex marriage in Poland.
Asked during an interview with RMF FM whether such marriages should be legal in Poland, Jaśkowiak, responded that “it is certainly necessary to ensure that people who are in homosexual relationships have the same rights as those who are married”.
Pressed on whether this meant he would support legalising same-sex marriages, Jaśkowiak, who is currently mayor of Poznań, replied: “Yes.”
Commentators have noted that Jaśkowiak’s remarks may cause tension within his Civic Platform (PO) party, which contains both socially conservative and liberal factions and has tended to sit on the fence regarding LGBT rights.
Jaśkowiak is clearly “unfamiliar with the most important principle of his own party: not yet, let’s talk”, joked journalist Dariusz Grzędziński.
— Dariusz Grzędziński (@grzedzinski) November 25, 2019
Others, however, praised Jaśkowiak for being brave enough to speak out on this issue. “Maybe it is time to finally acknowledge that [same-sex marriage] is a sensible European standard, and not ritually wring our hands when someone has the courage to say it in public?” suggested journalist Konrad Piasecki.
A może czas wreszcie uznać, że to sensowny europejski standard. A nie rytualne załamywać ręce, gdy ktoś ma odwagę powiedzieć to publicznie? https://t.co/xrHQpqhmS9
— Konrad_Piasecki (@KonradPiasecki) November 25, 2019
LGBT rights have been a hot-button issue in Poland this year, after the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party chose to make opposing them a central feature of its campaigns for European and parliamentary elections.
“While we are in power, there will be no gay marriage,” PiS chairman Jarosław Kaczyński promised, warning supporters of same-sex marriage and adoption to keep their “hands off our children”.
Leading figures in the church have also taken up the issue. The archbishop of Krakow recently likened “LGBT ideology” to Nazism, having earlier called it a “plague” similar to communism. Conservatives have also noted that Poland’s constitution mentions marriage as a “union of a man and a woman”.
PO has been divided in its response. Some of its leading figures, especially mayors of more liberal larger cities, have been vocal supporters of LGBT rights. Rafał Trzaskowski, the mayor of Warsaw, signed a declaration of support for LGBT rights earlier this year. Jaśkowiak himself has lent his patronage to Poznań’s annual LGBT Equality March.
But others in the party, especially representing cities in the east and smaller towns, where voters a more conservative, have taken a different stance. A number of PO mayors have sought to ban LGBT marches (ostensibly on safety grounds) in places such as Lublin and Gniezno. (All the bans have been overturned in court.)
In May this year, a PO MP and the former head of its parliamentary caucus was recorded telling a member of the public that the party “will be progressive” on introducing same-sex civil partnerships, but only after it wins power. “We aren’t exposing too much now,” he said, because “we have to attract votes in the provinces” where this issue is a “problem”.
Proszę o mocne RT❗️❗️
– Jak to będzie z tymi ZWIĄZKAMI /partnerskimi/?
– My będziemy na pewno działać w tej sprawie progresywnie. Ale po 22 października. My musimy każdy głos zebrać z tego wińca, żeby wybrać i dzisiaj nie eksponujemy tego za bardzo…#PolskawEuropie pic.twitter.com/zUEKoEbDbo
— PikuśPOL ?? ? (@pikus_pol) May 18, 2019
The party’s central leadership has sought to balance these two competing tendencies. When PO was in power from 2007-2014 it introduced no legislation on LGBT rights. But before last month’s parliamentary elections, the leader of its campaign, Małgorzata Kidawa-Błonska, promised that the party would introduce same-sex civil partnerships as a “priority” if it returned to power.
Kidawa-Błonska is now Jaśkowiak’s rival in primaries to choose PO’s presidential candidate for next year’s elections. The winner will likely face incumbent Andrzej Duda, a conservative whose candidacy was supported by the ruling PiS party, whom he previously served as an MP.
Research by IPSOS indicates that a majority of Poles now support the introduction of same-sex civil partnerships, reaching 60% in the most recent poll. Support for same-sex marriage, at 41%, is lower.
Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland and assistant professor of history at the Pedagogical University of Krakow. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign Policy, POLITICO Europe, The Independent and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.