Poland: LGBT activists welcome rainbow light show, say more needed

(Reuters) – Several cities in Poland illuminated buildings with rainbow colours on Monday, in a gesture of solidarity with the LGBT+ community, but activists called for more support in the face of rising hostility.

LGBT rights have been a flashpoint in Poland over the last two years, with politicians tied to the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, and senior members of the Catholic Church, arguing against what they term ‘LGBT ideology’.

Last week liberal Warsaw Mayor, Rafal Trzaskowski, along with several other city mayors, pledged to illuminate buildings with rainbow colours, to mark the International Day for Tolerance.

To many religious conservatives in predominantly Catholic Poland, Trzaskowski represented a threat to traditional values when he signed an ‘LGBT+ Charter’ pledging, for example, to introduce education about LGBT rights in Warsaw schools.

But LGBT+ activists say Trzaskowski has not fulfilled the promises he made, which included creating a shelter for young LGBT+ people, who became homeless after coming out to their families.

“This is obviously a symbolic gesture and we welcome it when it comes from mayors of smaller cities and smaller towns,” said Hubert Sobecki, an activist with a non-governmental organisation, Love does not exclude.

“We expect more from someone who … pledged to do something tangible for the community,” he said, adding that two years after the ‘LGBT+ Charter’ was signed, “there was absolutely no action from the municipality”.

A Warsaw city hall spokeswoman said the mayor was committed to the charter’s proposals, but their implementation was “a complex process” and some efforts had been halted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Buildings were also illuminated in Gdansk, Krakow, Poznan, Wroclaw, and other smaller towns.

Activists say hostility is rising against LGBT+ people in Poland, which does not recognise any form of same-sex marriage, and there have even been calls for Pride parades to be banned.

Bartosz Staszewski, a filmmaker and LGBT activist, said the illumination of a bridge over the Vistula river in Warsaw made him think of a trans activist who died after jumping off a bridge.

“I have such terribly bad associations when now the same bridges are simply rainbow-lit and nothing more will happen in Warsaw,” he said.

-Alicja Ptak

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