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Activists fight against anti-LGBTQ+ zones and bias in Poland
by Emily Reilly

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There is a crisis happening in the LGBTQ+ community in Poland, as in many countries around the world. Poland's historically patriarchal and Christian values are deeply woven into social and political settings—and the effects on the LGBTQ+ community are devastating.

Poland President Andrzej Duda has claimed the "LGBTQ+ ideology" to be "more destructive than communism." "Anti-LGBTQ+ zones" have been put in place. The atmosphere for the LGBTQ+ community is troublesome under their current administration. The fate of Poland's homophobic administration lies in the current election between Duda against opponent Rafal Trzaskowski, who is an LGBTQ+ ally.

"As far as Europe is concerned, Poland and Hungary are the two worst when it comes to homophobia; I've been to Pride protests in both countries." longtime activist/journalist Andy Harley told Windy City Times.

Protests and efforts for equality have been led to push back against homophobia. There have been events and protests like the Equality march in Bialystok, and other marches that have taken place in cities such as Wroclaw, Lublin and Warsaw. Additionally, individual activists make their voices heard by sharing information on social media.

"There's EuroPride, which is massive every year. There was one a few years ago that was held in Warsaw, quite successfully," said Harley. "The politicians doing it, generally speaking, have a different attitude because they're a bigger city in Poland."

Unfortunately, the typical scene for activists trying to hold protests and events are met with tension and violence by counter-protestors. Emergency funds were created to help LGBTQ+ organizers after protesters were attacked in 2019 protests.

A statement that only fueled this fire in the recent past was an anti-LGBTQ+ comment made by Poland's Archbishop Jedraszewski last August.

"Our land is no longer affected by the red plague, which does not mean that there is no new one that wants to control our souls, hearts and minds," said Jedraszewski, as quoted on websites such as LGBTQ Nation and PinkNews. "Not Marxist, Bolshevik, but born of the same spirit, neo-Marxist. Not red, but rainbow."

Far-right nationalist groups have attempted to ban protests and threaten legal action against the LGBTQ+ community. Activists that are dealing with this are also trying to share the news of these tensions which have become violent in many cases.

"Some newspapers are pretty pro-lgbt, so they can get their voices heard, and of course we all know radio and television have always helped," said Harley. "Warsaw is not a stronghold of the PiS, it's very much a Civic Platform, and the man running to be president Trzaskowski is currently the mayor of Warsaw,"

The PiS is the Christian, conservative political party in Poland, short for "Law and Justice," while the Civic Platform is the liberal-conservative party.

Throughout Duda's presidency, sister cities in the United States are being called on to raise awareness for the issue in Poland in light of his anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and laws. For example, the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park is sister cities with Nowy Sacz, Poland, and was specifically called on to address the issue back in May.

Many local activists in the United States and surrounding countries have been creating petitions trying to raise awareness for the issue. One petition titled "Abolish current anti-LGBT laws and protect LGBT people in Poland, call the EU to intervene" has almost half a million signatures. Many petitions with similar intentions aim to get the attention of powerful organizations that can do something about the issue, like the European Parliament.

Organizations in Poland also use social media to get their message out. For instance, Grupa Stonewall, a pro-LGBTQ+ Polish association, posts information, petitions and insight to those supporting the fight.

"There is no other choice; this is not the candidate of our dreams, but removing the President in office from power is in the interest of all LGBTQ+ people," read an Instagram post by Grupa Stonewall. "Therefore, we appeal: do not give up on the second round of elections. July 12, go out to the polls and vote for Rafal Trzaskowski. In two weeks we can live in a completely different political reality. All we have to do is motivate ourselves and people of our surroundings."

The second round of voting for this year's presidential election—on Sunday, July 12—will determine the course of LGBTQ+ history in Poland.

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