POLAND: Timeline-How LGBT+ issues became a flashpoint

A rally for the LGBT community in Warsaw, Poland August 8, 2020 – Image: Agata Grzybowska/Agencja Gazeta/via REUTERS

LGBT+ rights have become a flashpoint in Poland, pitching the conservative government against LGBT+ activists.

On Friday, 48 people were arrested at a demonstration, protesting the arrest of an LGBT+ activist in Warsaw accused of draping rainbow flags over statues, intensifying the battle between LGBT+ rights supporters and the nationalist government.

The ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) dismisses the promotion of LGBT+ rights [saying they undermine] Poland’s traditional values, and the issue featured prominently in the campaign for this year’s presidential election.

Here are the main events in the dispute.

February 2019 – Poland’s first openly gay politician, Robert Biedron, launches a progressive party, Wiosna (Spring) ahead of the European elections in May.

March 2019 – PiS party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski says Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski’s signing of an ‘LGBT charter’, whose pledges included fighting anti-LGBT+ bullying in schools, is an attack on children and families.

March 2019 – The first of more than 100 towns signs a resolution condemning ‘LGBT ideology’ or a ‘Charter of the Rights of the Family’, leading activists to label the municipalities ‘LGBT-free zones’.

May 2019 – Activist Elzbieta Podlesna is arrested for putting up posters of the Virgin Mary with a rainbow halo in the town of Plock. She and two others are later charged with “offending religious feelings”.

May 2019 – Before European elections, Kaczynski says LBGT+ rights pose “a real threat to our identity”. Other PiS politicians claim a Warsaw sex education programme based on World Health Organization standards would sexualise children.

July 2019 – The first Pride march in the town of Bialystok is attacked by anti-LGBT+ extremists, who throw smoke bombs, burn flags and beat up several people. Police disperse crowds and detain 25 people.

September 2019 – Police prevent an attempted bomb attack at Lublin Pride March.

December 2019 – The European Parliament calls on Poland to axe local resolutions that declare areas “free from LGBTI ideology”.

April 2020 – Polish lawmakers vote to pause a bill that would imprison those who promote underage sex for up to three years, and which compared gay people to paedophiles. Opponents say the bill is designed to ban sex education in the country.

July 2020 – Poland’s President Andrzej Duda is narrowly re-elected to a second five-year term, after comparing LGBT+ ‘ideology’ to communism, and pledging to ban same-sex adoption and LGBT+ lessons in schools during the campaign.

August 2020 – Thousands take to the streets to protest the detention of LGBT+ activist, Margot Szutowicz, who was accused of damaging an anti-abortion campaigner’s van, and was arrested earlier in the month for hanging rainbow flags from statues.

-Darnell Christie @darnellchristie and Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage – Thomson Reuters Foundation

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