Polish courts have annulled two of the “zones free from LGBT ideology” that have been declared by many local authorities around Poland. Judges found that they violate the constitution, which bans discrimination and requires equal treatment.
The office of Poland’s commissioner for human rights, Adam Bodnar, which filed the complaints, hailed the rulings as unprecedented.
Meanwhile, there are growing signals that the European Union could seek to restrict funding for regions in Poland that have adopted anti-LGBT resolutions.
Yesterday, the provincial administrative court in Gliwice ruled on such a resolution passed by the council in Istebna, southwestern Poland. Bodnar’s office had lodged a complaint against it, arguing that it violated various articles of Poland’s constitution.
The court found that the phrase “LGBT ideology” in fact refers to LGBT people and has a discriminatory effect on them by excluding them from the community due to their sexual preferences and gender identity, reports Polsat News.
“Ideology is always associated with people; the dictionary definition states that it is a system of ideas professed by individuals or groups of people,” said one of the judges, Krzysztof Wujek, in his oral justification.
Declaring somewhere “a zone free from” LGBT ideology “de facto refers to people from this LGBT group”, continued the judge. “Saying that it is an ideology, not people, is turning a blind eye to reality.”
“It is harmful and strengthens a sense of threat against these people,” concluded Wujek. “These are the strongest arguments which made the court feel obliged to declare the resolution invalid.”
The court noted that the anti-LGBT resolution violated Article 32 of Poland’s constitution, which stipulates that “all persons shall be equal before the law” and “have the right to equal treatment by public authorities”, and that “no one shall be discriminated against in political, social or economic life for any reason whatsoever”.
The judges also found that the resolution violated the right of people to raise their children in accordance with their beliefs by limiting the scope of subjects that could be taught in schools.
“Human sexuality is the subject of scientific research, one of the branches of medicine,” found the court. “Science cannot be considered inappropriate for curricula.”
The ruling was welcomed by Anna Błaszczak-Banasiak, from Bodnar’s office, “This is the first such ruling in Poland. It is a precedent, which will definitely go down in the history of the fight for human rights in Poland,” she told Polsat.
WAŻNE‼️ WSA w Gliwicach po rozpoznaniu skargi RPO @Adbodnar unieważnił uchwałę gminy Istebna o przeciwdziałaniu ideologii LGBT. Sąd nie ma wątpliwości, że uchwała dyskryminuje osoby LGBT. Miażdżące uzasadnienie! @KPH_official @milaadamczewska pic.twitter.com/m976FUlnHv
— Anna Błaszczak-Banasiak (@Anna_Blaszczak) July 14, 2020
“The justification of the court was crushing,” she declared. “It not only shared all substantive arguments of the commissioner recognising that these resolutions violate the constitutional rights and freedoms of the LGBT community, but [also] pointed out that they were harmful and discriminatory.”
Karolina Gierdal, a lawyer representing Poland’s Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH), told Polsat she had “not been this happy for a long time”.
The court could have just declared the resolution invalid, said Gierdal. But instead it went further, declaring that “there is no such thing as LGBT ideology, there are simply LGBT people”.
However, Jerzy Kwaśniewski, the president of Ordo Iuris, an ultraconservative legal NGO that wrote the “Charter of Family Rights” adopted by many authorities and which had applied for Bodnar’s complaint to be dismissed, criticised the court.
“The ruling exceeded the statutory limits of the jurisdiction of administrative courts,” he argued, quoted by TVP Info. Kwaśniewski also noted that administrative courts in Kraków, Kielce and Poznań had rejected similar cases filed by Bodnar’s office.
However, in a further development today, Błaszczak-Banasiak posted an image of a new ruling by the provincial administrative court in Radom. This annulled a resolution against “LGBT ideology” adopted in Klwów, central Poland, she said. Details of the ruling are not yet available.
Meanwhile, there have been growing concerns that EU bodies may seek to restrict European funds for parts of Poland that have adopted anti-LGBT resolutions.
Last month, the European Commission wrote to the heads of five Polish provinces requesting an explanation regarding such resolutions. In the letter, the Commission reminded local authorities that the activities of beneficiaries of European funds must be in accordance with European values and may not violate any European laws
Last week, the European Parliament’s committee on women’s rights and gender equality urged the European Commission to freeze funds for the regions in which they might be used in a discriminatory way.
Věra Jourová, the commission’s vice-president for values and transparency, has declared that the EU “cannot finance projects in cities that violate core values”, reports Wirtualna Polska.
Today, Rzeczpospolita reported that there are proposals on the table to make EU funds conditional on compliance not only with the rule of law, but also with respect for minority rights. This, writes the Polish newspaper, could be used to cut off money to places in Poland that have issued anti-LGBT resolutions.
The threat of the EU funding tap being turned off has led to a worried response from some local Polish politicians, who have tried to explain that this is just a misunderstanding.
“[The resolution] was not against any person,” Beata Bielesz, deputy chair of the Istebna district council, told RMF FM. “I cannot imagine oppressing anyone; that was not what this was about.”
Kraśnik, another Polish town that passed the resolution, now wants to revoke it, with the head of the council, Dorota Posyniak, saying that “if it was to have an impact on the funds we were hoping to invest in developing the city, it would make our functioning very difficult”.
Another local councilman from Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, speaking anonymously to Wirtualna Polska, accused an LGBT activist of creating the misleading impression that these are “LGBT-free zones” (rather than “free from LGBT ideology”).
“It was a provocation and now everyone abroad thinks that the local council put up a sign saying that”, he explained.
Last year, Poland’s ruling party used anti-LGBT rhetoric during campaigns for the European and parliamentary elections. Their attacks on “LGBT ideology”, which were also promoted by figures in the Catholic church, led Poland to recently be ranked as the worst place in the EU for LGBT people.
Last month, President Andrzej Duda also chose to adopt the issue in his successful campaign for re-election. He claimed that “LGBT is not people, it is an ideology”, which he said was “more dangerous than communism”.
The president has also submitted a proposed amendment to the constitution that would ban the adoption of children by couples in a same-sex relationship. He described such adoption as “experimentation” on and “enslavement” of children.
Main image credit: Tomasz Stanczak/Agencja Gazeta
Agnieszka Wądołowska is managing editor of Notes from Poland. She has previously worked for Gazeta.pl and Tokfm.pl and contributed to Gazeta Wyborcza, Wysokie Obcasy, Duży Format, Midrasz and Kultura Liberalna