Poland’s ruling centre right party, Platforma Obywatelska (PO), is planning to introduce a law of registered civil partnerships that will be include same-sex couples. The proposed bill, however, is being met with fierce opposition within and outside the party. After several months of discussion, the PO decided last week to put to the vote a draft bill in both chambers of the Polish parliament, the Sejm and Senate. The proposed draft bill of registered civil partnership is similar the current French Pacte civil de solidarité (PACS). The bill includes a range of benefits which currently are only granted to married heterosexual couples, including protections and responsibilities, inheritance, pension funds, notary, and medical rights. Joint tax benefits and adoption rights are not included in the bill. The PO is the country’s largest party and its intention to put the draft bill to the vote surprised many political commentators as the party opposed last year in a parliamentary vote a similar draft bill introduced by left wing parties. This means that there is a chance for parliamentary majority necessary for the bill to pass into law. So far, the president and prime minister of Polandhave not voiced any opposition to the bill, nevertheless it is expected to meet some opposition within the PO. Previous attempts to introduce similar draft bills from within the PO have been strong opposed by some its conservative members, including justice minister Jaroslaw Gowin. Opponents label the registered civil partnership as ‘pseudo marriage’, warning it will undermine the institution of marriage. In an interview with Radio PolandDunin stated that the project does not aim to put registered civil partnership on an equal par with marriage. He also pointed out that in contrast to the unsuccessful bill previously drafted and put to the vote by left wing parties, his project does not include joint tax benefits, citizenship or adoption. Dunin argued that the draft bill is limited and conservative in its scope and compatible with the PO policies. The bill is expected to be supported by the Alliance of the Democratic Left (SLD) whose previous bill was rejected by the PO and right wing parties. The Polish People’s Party (PSL) is not expected to oppose the bill. The main opposition party, the right-wing conservative ‘Law and justice’ (PiS) party, is expected to strongly oppose the bill. Poland is a predomintantly Catholic country, and the church remains fiercly opposed to any recognition of same-sex couples. Currently there is no legal recognition of same-sex couples in Poland. Article 18 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland (1997) defines ‘marriage’ as a union of a man and a woman. In late 2003, Polish Senator Maria Szyszkowska proposed civil unions for same-sex couples, similar to Dunin’s project . The legislation was met with blocked by the PO and PiS in both houses of the Polish parliament. In October 2011, Poland elected its first openly gay member of parliament Robert Biedroń, as well as its first transgender MP, Anna Grodzka.
Hundreds of gay and trans men and women, together with their supporters, marched through the capitals of Poland and Latvia today, demanding greater acceptance and rights in their respective societies, where they still face high levels of homophobia and transphobia. Although several of the former-Soviet countries joined the EU in 2004, and have moved towards more liberal policies for LGBT people, homosexuality still remains a taboo subject, with outright hostility from rightwing groups and politicians. Today, the marches both in Riga and Warsaw required heavy police protection, Associated Press reports, though this year, the opposition was smaller in number and force than the previous ones. In addition, the march in Riga included the participation of the US ambassador to Latvia, Judith Garber, under instructions from Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Ms Garber said: “”Human rights belong to everyone, regardless of sexual orientation. So we are marching in support of LGBT people here in Latvia, in the Baltics, in Europe, and throughout the world.” Meanwhile, Poland’s LGBT community used the occasion to mark the inclusion of Poland’s first gay and transgender MPs into the parliament last year, which marked a significant improvement in a country where politicans have repeatedly denounced gay and trans people. The party to which these MPs belonged, Palikot’s Movement, had its own float in the Warsaw march. A group of about 20 people from Belarus also marched in Warsaw, local media reports say, ahead of a pride parade in Minsk in October. In response to President Alexander Lukashenko’s statement that it was ‘better to be a dictator than gay,’ a remark made at Germany’s gay foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, the marchers carried a banner which read: “It’s better to be gay than a dictator.”
In a little-noticed decision at the end of October, a court allowed the small National Rebirth of Poland (NOP) party to register two symbols. One was the Celtic cross, used by far-right movements internationally, while the other was a stylized illustration of gay sex with a bar through it. The NOP trumpeted the court ruling on its website earlier this week, saying it capped a two-year legal battle. Grzegorz Schetyna, a senior player in Poland’s ruling centrist Civic Platform, accused the judge who made the ruling of failing in his duties. “Such symbols are unacceptable,” he told the station Radio Zet. The NOP turns out regularly to oppose gay rights rallies in Poland.
RELATED: Last summer friends of mine were attacked by neo-Nazi and Catholic extremists while attending EuroPride in Warsaw. Over 2000 Polish riot police were deployed to protect those attending the parade.
As many might not know, the Celtic Cross is used by many far-right wing groups. Does is say something to ya?
It’s kind of ironic what can happen when people forget its own history, right?
Poland: First Transgender Lawmaker Promises Changes
The Advocate reports:
Times are changing in conservative, Catholic Poland and nothing is more emblematic of that than Anna Grodzka, the nation’s first transgender politician.
Grodzka is from the religious stronghold of Krakow — former home of Pope John Paul II — but was nonetheless elected to parliament on October 9. Along with Grodzka, Poland’s parliament will see an out gay politician and two black lawmakers. Change has come to Poland following the death of many of its officials, including its antigay former president Lech Kaczynski, in an April 10, 2010 plane crash.
Taking office on November 8, the 57-year-old Grodzka told the Associated Press she will fight for legal same-sex partnerships in Poland, as well as state funding for gender reassignment surgeries. Grodzka heads up a 1,000-member transgender organization in Poland.
“Enough of this concealing of the truth,” Grodzka told the AP. “This group of people, even if small, has its rights and they should be respected. They should not be pushed into oblivion.”
The foreign ministry of Poland will honor a request from organizers of the Warsaw Equality Parade scheduled for June to waive visa fees for attendees from Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. According to the Warsaw Business Journal, parade organizers said that a few hundred people would benefit from the decision not to impose the visa fees, which amount to around $40. The foreign ministry will verify that visitors’ aim in coming to Poland is to attend to parade on June 11. “What we wrote in our letter to the Ministry was that Poland in the 17th and 18th century was famous for its tolerance, and that we are trying to change Poland and let people around Europe know that Poland was and will become again a tolerant country,” said Jej Perfekcyjność, a spokesperson for the parade’s organization committee, to the Journal. He added that he believed the argument persuaded Polish officials. In past years, Poland has banned the parade, a move that contributed to the majority-Roman Catholic country’s reputation for intolerance. The country will take over the presidency of the Council of the European Union in July, a development that could intensify scrutiny of its LGBT rights record. The Journal reports that, “As in years past, the city of Warsaw declined to become a patron of the parade, and Mayor Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz is not expected to attend. Among the official figures who have confirmed they will attend are politicians Grzegorz Napieralski, Janusz Palikot, Marek Borowski and Ryszard Kalisz.”
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