Europe

Polish town scraps controversial move to declare itself ‘LGBT-free’

A Polish town has gone back on a controversial move to declare itself “LGBT-free”.

Councillors in the eastern municipality of Kraśnik voted to repeal the 2019 decision on Thursday, becoming the sixth place to do so.

Kraśnik was one of dozens of towns and regions since May 2019 to say they are free of “LGBT ideology”, which the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) say undermines Poland”s religious family values.

Kraśnik’s centre-right mayor Wojciech Wilk had supported the withdrawal, stating the declaration had “a negative impact” elsewhere in the region.

Nine city councillors supported his proposal, while six were against and four abstained.

It was the fourth occasion that Kraśnik had attempted to rescind its “LGBT-free” status after three unsuccessful attempts.

The resolution was originally declared by Kraśnik and around 100 other municipalities in May 2019 after support from the conservative PiS.

But the decision soon led to the withdrawal of international funding and a wave of negative attention online.

Helena Dalli, the European commissioner for equality, suspended funding to six Polish cities that adopted the resolution.

Last September, Norway’s foreign minister Ine Eriksen Soreide also indicated that “municipalities which have adopted anti-LGBT resolutions will not receive financial support from Norwegian funds as long as these resolutions are valid”.

Meanwhile, the French town of Nogent-sur-Oise suspended twinning ties with Kraśnik in February 2020 over the gesture.

Writing on Facebook, Wilk said the resolution had “financial consequences” on Kraśnik.

“Last year … we prepared a project that would enable us to obtain 39 million zloty (€8.5 million) for the social and economic development of the city.”

“The grant would come from the Norwegian Mechanism. [But] the Norwegian government’s anti-discrimination policy made it difficult to secure the grant.”

Kraśnik also gained widespread attention when France’s Minister for Europe said he was prevented from visiting the city’s ‘LGBT-free’ zones during a recent visit.

Clément Beaune told French media in March that he was dissuaded by “political pressure” from Polish officials. Poland’s Foreign Ministry denied the allegations.

Kraśnik’s mayor said the withdrawal of the city’s “LGBT-free” status brought an end to “a period of serious crisis”.

“A negative image has been perpetuated in numerous Polish and foreign media reports,” Wilk said.

“The rights of minorities are guaranteed by the Polish Constitution and there should be no doubt that the Kraśnik local government respects the law in Poland.”

“I am glad that the councillors have decided to repeal the resolution,” he added, “it was a difficult time for our local government and our city.”

PiS councillors in Kraśnik, however, have suggested that the vote to repeal could cause “a secondary worldview conflict”.

“Today’s vote … shows that some councillors on the right have no moral backbone,” said the vice-chairman of the council, Roman Bijak.

“What triumphs is not common sense but the political result,” he wrote on Facebook.

Last month, the European Parliament passed a resolution declaring all 27 member states an LGBT “freedom zone” although, like the Polish resolutions declaring the opposite, the declaration has no legal force.

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