Metro Weekly

Poland’s Law and Justice Party uses LGBTQ people as bogeyman ahead of 2019 elections

Ruling party casts LGBTQ rights as foreign "threat" in attempt to activate socially conservative voters

2018 Warsaw Pride Parade – Photo: Klarqa, via Wikimedia.

LGBTQ people in Poland can look forward to being used as a political wedge ahead of the upcoming European Parliament elections on May 26.

Several local councils have passed motions opposing the promotion of homosexuality in workplaces, schools, and other public places in response to recent pro-LGBTQ actions taken by politicians in the capital city of Warsaw.

In February, Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski signed an order promising to launch an LGBTQ-inclusive and comprehensive sex education program, based on guidelines set forth by the World Health Organization, in the city’s schools.

Trzaskowski is a member of the Civic Platform, an economically center-right but socially liberal party that is currently the leading opposition party in Poland’s Sejm, or national parliament.

In response to Trzaskowski’s declaration, several councils, particularly in more conservative or rural areas, have passed local ordinances or laws opposing similar actions, including the Świdnik district, which approved a non-binding motion in March opposing the spread of “LGBT ideology,” reports Reuters.

According to the online news website Onet, the government of the Lublin province bestowed gold medals to the Świdnik district and eight other local governmental bodies for passing resolutions opposing the promotion of LGBTQ rights and defending “traditional values.

Among those local governments honored were: the regional assembly of Lublin; the Rycki district; the cities of Świdnik, Urzędów, and Ostrów Lubelski; and the villages of Melgiew, Wilklaz, and Gmina Zakrzówek.

The attacks on LGBTQ rights are likely to continue, particularly if the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) Party believes it has glommed on to a hot-button social issue that appeal to socially conservative voters who make up a substantial part of its mostly rural political base.

Historically, that group of voters has been disengaged when it comes to voting in European Parliament elections.

As such, Law and Justice, which won control of Poland’s parliament in 2015 after employing a strategy of demonizing immigrants, has begun to portray LGBTQ rights as dangerous “foreign” ideas that undermine traditional values in the heavily Catholic country.

Law and Justice Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski has urged Poles to vote for “the only party that gives a 100% guarantee that our values will be protected,” adding that support for LGBTQ rights poses a “real threat to our identity, to our nation.”

On May 26, Polish voters will be asked to select candidates running for 51 seats in the 751-seat body. Currently, 22 of Poland’s members to European Parliament are affiliated with parties like Civic Platform, which comprise part of the European People’s Party coalition, while 18, including 15 Law and Justice politicians, are part of the European Conservatives and Reformists coalition.

Besides the possibility of winning a majority of seats within Poland’s delegation to the European Parliament, Law and Justice hopes to use the May elections as a dry-run of sorts to gauge the success of the party’s message among voters and make any tweaks necessary ahead of the fall elections to ensure the party retains control of parliament.

“PiS needs an enemy, someone to fight against, someone they can use to raise fear,” LGBTQ rights activists Bartosz Staszewski told Reuters. “Before, it was immigrants. This time it’s LGBT people.”

Staszewski says that while resolutions approved by local councils are not legally binding, they can still send a message to LGBTQ people that they and their rights are not respected by their government.

“How are LGBT people, particularly the young, supposed to feel … when they hear that the regional council or local government are against them?” he asked.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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