LGBT-free zone

Map of Poland, LGBT-free zones declared (as of August 2019) on a voivodeship or powiat level marked in red. [1] [2] [3] [4]

An LGBT-free zone (Polish: Strefa wolna od LGBT[5]) is a region declared to be free of "LGBT ideology"[6] as the result of an act by a Polish municipality[1][7] powiat (county),[8] or voivodeship (province).[9]

While unenforceable and considered primarily symbolic, activists say the declared zones represent an attempt to stigmatize and exclude members of the LGBT community.[7][9] As of August 2019, around 30 different LGBT-free zone declarations have been made in Poland, including four voivodeships in the south-east of the country:[1][2][4][8] Podkarpackie, 艢wi臋tokrzyskie, and Lubelskie.[2]

On the 18th of December 2019, the European Parliament voted (463 to 107) in favor of condemning the more than 80 LGBTI-free zones in Poland.[10][11][12][13][14]


August 2019 protest in support of Archbishop Marek J臋draszewski's statements on LGBT. Sign reads: "away ([down]) with leftist ideological totalitarianism", precz (throw away) is also on the crossed-out gay pride flag

In February 2019, Warsaw's liberal mayor Rafa艂 Trzaskowski signed a declaration supporting LGBTQ rights[9][15] and announced his intention to follow World Health Organization guidelines and integrate LGBT issues into the Warsaw school sex education curricula.[9] PiS politicians objected to the sex education program saying it would sexualize children.[16] PiS party leader Jaros艂aw Kaczy艅ski responded to the declaration, calling LGBT rights "an import" that threatened Poland.[17] The declaration "enraged and galvanized" conservative politicians and conservative media in Poland, according to The Daily Telegraph.[9] The LGBT-free zone declarations are considered to be a reaction to the Warsaw declaration.[9][18]

painting of a madonna and child with halos rendered in rainbow colors
Pride marcher in Cz臋stochowa holding the Rainbow Madonna, a depiction of Black Madonna of Cz臋stochowa with the halo replaced by rainbow colors. In May 2019, civil-rights activist El偶bieta Podle艣na was arrested for the charge of offending religious sentiment in relation to distribution of such posters. [19] [20]

According to The Daily Telegraph, the conservative establishment is fearful of a liberal transition that may erode the power of the Catholic Church in Poland in a manner similar to the transition around the Irish Church.[9] Decreasing Church attendance, rising secularization, and sexual abuse scandals have put pressure on the conservative position.[9] In May 2019, Polish police arrested civil-rights activist El偶bieta Podle艣na for putting up posters of the Black Madonna of Cz臋stochowa with the halo painted rainbow colors for the charge of offending religious sentiment, which is illegal in Poland.[19][20] Also in May, two weeks prior to the 2019 European Parliament election, a documentary on child sex abuse in the Church, was released online.[19] The documentary was expected to hurt the Church-aligned PiS electorally, which led PiS leader Kaczy艅ski to speak heatedly of the Polish nation and children as being under attack by deviant foreign ideas, which led conservative voters to rally around PiS.[19] According to feminist scholar Agnieszka Graff, "The attack on LGBT was triggered by the [Warsaw] Declaration, but that was just a welcome excuse", as PiS sought to woo the rural-traditional demographic and needed a scapegoat to replace migrants.[19]

In August 2019, the Archbishop of Krak贸w Marek J臋draszewski said "LGBT ideology" were like a "rainbow plague" in a sermon commemorating the Warsaw uprising.[21][22][23][24] Not long after, a drag queen simulated his murder on stage.[25]

As of 2019, being openly gay in Poland's small towns and rural areas "[takes] increasing physical and mental fortitude" due to the efforts of Polish authorities and the Catholic Church, according to The Telegraph.[9] Public perceptions, however, have been becoming more tolerant of gays.[9][16] In 2001, 41 percent of Poles surveyed stated that "being gay wasn鈥檛 normal and shouldn鈥檛 be tolerated" whereas 24 percent said so in 2017. 5 percent said "being gay was normal" in 2001 while 16 percent said so in 2017.[16]


LGBT-free zone motions are made by Polish municipalities,[1][7] powiats (counties),[8] and voivodeships (provinces)[9] who declare the regions under their control as free of "LGBT ideology"[6] in reaction to the declaration.[18] While unenforceable, activists say the declared zones represent attempts to exclude the LGBT community.[7][9] Activist Olga Kaczorek called the declarations "a statement saying that a specific kind of people is not welcome there."[7]

In March 2019, the town of 艢widnik in eastern Poland passed a resolution rejecting "LGBT ideology".[16]

As of August 2019, around 30 different LGBT-free zones have been declared in Poland, including four voivodeships in the south-east of the country:[1][2][4][8] Lesser Poland, Podkarpackie, 艢wi臋tokrzyskie, and Lublin.[2] The four Voivodeships form the "historically conservative" part of Poland.[7]

Powiats adopting such measures include: Bia艂ystok County, Jaros艂aw County, Lesko County, Lubacz贸w County, Mielec County, Pu艂awy County, Ryki County, 艢widnik County, Tarn贸w County, and Zamo艣膰 County.[3]

Law and Justice party

Ahead of the 2015 Polish parliamentary election, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party took an anti-migrant stance.[1] With migration slowing significantly,[7] in the run-up to the 2019 Polish parliamentary election the party has focused on countering Western "LGBT ideology".[1] PiS leader Jaros艂aw Kaczy艅ski labelled migrants as carrying "parasites and protozoa" in 2015[26], while in 2019 he rebuked the Warsaw mayor's pro-LGBTQ declaration as "an attack on the family and children" and stated that LGBTQ was an "imported" ideology.[9]

After Archbishop J臋draszewski made his speech calling "LGBT ideology" a "rainbow plague", the Polish minister for aid defended the comments.[23]

In June 2019, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro ordered an investigation of Ikea after it fired an employee who expressed homophobic sentiments.[22]


LGBT-free zone stickers distributed by the Gazeta Polska newspaper

The conservative Gazeta Polska newspaper issued "LGBT-free zone" stickers to readers.[27] The Polish opposition and diplomats, including US ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher, condemned the stickers.[6][28] Gazeta editor in chief Tomasz Sakiewicz replied to the criticism with: "what is happening is the best evidence that LGBT is a totalitarian ideology".[28]

The Warsaw district court ordered that distribution of the stickers should halt pending the resolution of a court case.[29] However Gazeta's editor dismissed the ruling saying it was "fake news" and censorship, and that the paper would continue distributing the stickers.[30] Gazeta continued distribution of the stickers, but modified the decal to read "LGBT Ideology-Free Zone".[29]

In July Polish media chain Empik, the country's largest, refused to stock Gazeta Polska after it issued the stickers.[24] In August 2019, a show organized by the Gazeta Polska Community of America scheduled for October 24 in Carnegie Hall in New York was cancelled after complaints of anti-LGBT ties led to artists pulling out of the show.[31][32]


Nationalists counter-protesting June 2019 Rzesz贸w pride parade
June 2019 Rzesz贸w pride parade

In Rzesz贸w, after LGBT activists submitted a request to hold a pride march, PiS councilors drafted a resolution to make Rzesz贸w an LGBT-free zone as well as outlaw the event itself.[19] Some 29 requests for counter-demonstrations reached city hall, which led mayor Tadeusz Ferenc, of the opposition Democratic Left Alliance, to ban the march due to security concerns.[19] The ban was then overturned by a court ruling.[19] PiS councilors put forward a resolution outlawing "LGBT ideology", which was defeated by two votes.[19]

Following the violent events in the first Bia艂ystok equality march[7][33] and the Gazeta Polska stickers a demonstration for tolerance was held in Gda艅sk[34] on 23 July 2019, with the slogan "zone free of zones" (Polish: Strefa wolna od stref).[35][36][37] In Szczecin a demonstration under the slogan of "hate-free zone" (Polish: Strefa wolna od nienawi艣ci) took place,[37][38] and in 艁贸d藕 left-wing politicians handed out "hate-free zone" stickers.[37][39]


Synagogue in Bydgoszcz, German-occupied Poland, 1939. Nazi banner proclaiming city is judenfrei (free of Jews). This image was tweeted by a representative of Robert Biedro艅's party in response to the LGBT-free zones. [40] [41]

Support for declarations

Bo偶ena Biery艂o, a PiS councilwoman in Bia艂ystok County, said the legislation in Bia艂ystok county was required due to LGBT "provocations" and "demands" for sex education instruction.[6]

The national PiS party has encouraged the local declarations, with a PiS official handing out medals in Lublin to local politicians who supported the declarations.[1]

Criticism of declarations

In July 2019, Polish Ombudsman Adam Bodnar stated that "the government is increasing homophobic sentiments" with remarks "on the margins of hate speech".[1] Bodnar said he is preparing an appeal to the administrative court against the declarations, as according to Bodnar they are not only political but also have a normative character that affects the lives of people in the declared region.[8][42]

In July 2019, Warsaw city Councillor Marek Szolc and the Polish Society for Anti-Discrimination Law [pl] (PTPA) released a legal opinion stating that LGBT-free zone declarations stigmatize and exclude people and are illegal as they violate article 32 of the Constitution of Poland which guarantees equality and lack of discrimination.[18][43][44]

In August 2019, multiple LGBT community members stated that they feel unsafe in Poland.[23]

The Razem party stated: "Remember how the right [were scared] of the so-called [Muslim] no-go zones? Thanks to the same right, we have our own no-go zones."[45][46]

Liberal politicians and media and human rights activists have compared the declarations to Nazi-era declarations of areas being judenfrei (free of Jews). Left-leaning Italian newspaper la Repubblica called it "a concept that evokes the term 'Judenfrei'".[47][48] Campaign Against Homophobia director Slava Melnyk compared the declarations to "1933, when there were also free zones from a specific group of people."[49] Warsaw's deputy president Pawe艂 Rabiej tweeted, "The German fascists created zones free of Jews. Apartheid, of blacks."[27][41]

On the 18th of December 2019, the European Parliament voted (463 to 107) in favor of condemning the more than 80 LGBTI-free zones in Poland. Parliament demanded that "Polish authorities to condemn these acts and to revoke all resolutions attacking LGBTI rights". According to the EU Parliament the zones are part of "a broader context of attacks against the LGBTI community in Poland, which include growing hate speech by public and elected officials and public media, as well as attacks and bans on Pride marches and actions such as Rainbow Friday".[50][51][52][53][54]

See also

External links


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  32. ^ Group connected to 'LGBT-Free Zone' newspaper cancels Carnegie Hall event, NBC, Tim Fitzsimons, 26 August 2019
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  36. ^ ""Strefa wolna od stref" - manifestacja przeciwko nienawi艣ci, w ge艣cie solidarno艣ci z LGBT w Gda艅sku" ["Zone free of zones" 鈥 a manifestation against hatred, in a gesture of solidarity with LGBT in Gdansk]. Dziennik Baltycki (in Polish). 23 July 2019.
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  38. ^ "Szczecin - strefa wolna od nienawi艣ci! W odpowiedzi na t臋 furi臋, ten rynsztok" [Szczecin 鈥 a zone free from hatred! In response to this fury, this gutter]. Gazeta Wyborcza (in Polish). 26 July 2019.
  39. ^ "艁贸d藕 razem z Bia艂ymstokiem. Rozdano wlepki "strefa wolna od nienawi艣ci", b臋dzie pikieta" [艁贸d藕 together with Bia艂ystok: "Hate Free Zone" stickers were distributed, there will be a picket]. Gazeta Wyborcza (in Polish). 23 July 2019.
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