World News

Polish Town Will Remain 'LGBT-Free Zone' Despite Global Criticism

LONDON, Sept 22 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Councilors in eastern Poland voted narrowly on Tuesday to keep a motion declaring their town “free from LGBT ideology,” as international pressure grows on dozens of Polish municipalities that have made similar declarations.

The mayor’s office in Krasnik said councilors had voted 11 to nine to keep the symbolic anti-LGBT+ motion that was passed in May 2019, which declared that the town would defend itself from “radicals striving for a cultural revolution.”

Tuesday’s vote on whether to repeal the motion followed an announcement by Norway last week that it would not grant funding to any of the nearly 100 Polish municipalities that have issuedLGBT-free resolutions.

Bartosz Staszewski, a campaigner against the so-called LGBT-free zones, said the decision was against the best interests of Krasnik’s roughly 35,000 residents.

“I just hope that this is the most expensive… act in Krasnik’s history,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone. “The citizens of these cities are losing because of thepath (politicians) choose.”

Norway’s foreign minister said on Sept. 14 that Krasnik and other districts with similar LGBT-free statements would not begetting grants from a 100-million-euro program for small and medium-sized Polish cities funded by Norway, Iceland andLichtenstein.

The city, which would have been eligible to apply for up to10 million euros, has received about 7 million euros from the European Union in the last two years, a spokesman for Krasnik Mayor Wojciech Wilk said by email.

He distanced the town’s executive from the vote, saying the resolution was purely symbolic and that there were no specific regulations negatively affecting LGBT+ people.​

The Polish embassy in the United States said on Tuesday there were no LGBT-free zones in Poland, responding to a tweet by Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who said they had “no place in the European Union or anywhere in the world.”

“The Polish Government is committed to the rule of law, equal rights and social inclusion. There is no place for discrimination in our societies,” the embassy said in the tweet.

Last week, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on the EU to take action against Poland for rolling backLGBT+ rights and compromising judicial independence, including potentially denying it funding from the bloc.

Earlier that week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen condemned “LGBT-free zones,” calling them”humanity-free zones.”

(Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by HelenPopper. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly.Visit http://news.trust.org)

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