Four Polish provinces have revoked resolutions that had declared their regions as “LGBT-free zones” following threats from the European Union to block their funds.

The Polish voivodeships (provinces) of Podkarpackie, Lubelskie  and Malopolskie voted on September 27 to repeal their self-designated labels as “LGBT-free zones” after the  European Commission threatened to pull €126 million in funding.  The funds were earmarked to the regions as part of the European Union’s REACT-EU program.  

The province of Świętokrzyskie was the first to  repeal their “LGBT-free zone” designation. On September 22, the province adopted a  new resolution saying it would “respect the centuries old tradition  and culture of the Republic of Poland as well as equality and fair  treatment.”  A fifth region, Łódzkie, is currently debating whether to drop its own  declaration.  

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In 2019, around 100 municipalities, primarily in south and Southeastern  Poland, had passed LGBT-free zone declarations. The resolutions, while  perceived as largely symbolic, capped a wave of anti-LGBTQI+  sentiment, which swept across Poland. The Catholic organisation  Ordo Iuris was a strong force behind the creation of the resolutions. 

Violation Of EU Anti-Discrimination Laws

Zbigniew Ziobro, Poland’s Minister of Justice had in a news  conference on September 24 urged  “regional councils  not to succumb to blackmail. If someone is counting on the EU to  stop, they’re wrong. We can expect more unlawful actions if we  succumb to this kind of economic terrorism.”  

The creation of “LGBT-free zones” was initially supported by  Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party, a socially conservative party with a Christian, right-wing ideology. The government, in an about face move, encouraged the regions to end their resolutions. 

The European Commission had previously warned the regions that the “LGBT-free zone” labels may be in violation of EU laws covering  discrimination based on sexual orientation. 

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Lubelskie and Podkarpackie have now passed new resolutions.  Podkarpackie now refers to itself as “a region of well-established  tolerance”, while in Lubelskie, officials passed a new measure  entitled, “On the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms”.  

Provinces Faced Loss Of Subsidies

Polish LGBTQ+ activist Bart Staszewski tweeted, “The possibility of  losing gigantic Euros in subsidies has turned homophobic  councillors into lambs of tolerance. What a transformation!” 

Staszewki told Star Observer that it was the “solidarity of Queer  people [and] hard work of activists [which] made enough pressure  on politicians, with tremendous help from the European  Commission. We are on a clear path to withdraw all LGBT-free  zones, and I can promise we will make it.”  

The declarations were introduced as part of a larger plans by  Polish conservatives to reinforce “traditional” values in the largely  Catholic nation, and were made as part of an effort to stem a  spread of “LGBTQ ideology,” across Poland.  

EU Country With The Worst Record On LGBTQI+ Rights

European Union leaders had called the resolutions discriminatory, and  the European Parliament passed a resolution in March 2021 in  which the entire 27-member European Union was designated as a  LGBTQ+ “Freedom Zone.”

The incendiary rhetoric had led Ursula von der Leyen, the President of  the European Commission, to state, “Being yourself is not your  ideology, it’s your identity…LGBTQI-free zones are humanity free  zones. And they have no place in our union.”  

Poland, a largely Catholic nation, where same-sex relationships  have no legal recognition, was named by ILGA Europe in its 2020 Europe Rainbow Map and Index, as having the worst record for  LGBTQ+ rights in Europe, a rank it continues to hold in 2021.

“Far from being merely words on  paper, these declarations and charters directly impact the lives of  LGBTI people in Poland,” Dunja Mijatović, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human  Rights, said in December 2020.

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