‘Foreign Ideology’: Poland’s Populists Target LGBT Rights

The June 22 event was the city's second-ever Equality Parade celebrating LGBT rights — and organisers had expected counter-protests. But they said the real battle was to be allowed to stage the parade at all.

More than 20 cities and towns across Poland are holding Equality Parades this year, four of them for the first time, despite vilification of LGBT activists by the governing Law and Justice party (PiS).

Anti-LGBT rhetoric was a big PiS campain theme in the run-up to European Parliament elections in May, with the party disparaging LGBT rights as foreign ideas harmful to traditional values in Poland, a Catholic country.

Now rights groups say the nationalist-populist PiS is doubling down on anti-LGBT venom as parliamentary and presidential elections loom this year and next.

Activists say the back story to the Rzeszow parade was a tale of discrimination and intimidation that is being played out across the country.

When organisers first submitted a request to march in the city of 200,000 people, PiS city councillors wasted no time in proposing a resolution to outlaw the event along with what they called "the promotion of LGBT ideology".

Before long, applications to hold counter-demonstrations flooded in — 29 in all — prompting Rzeszow Mayor Tadeusz Ferenc from the opposition Democratic Left Alliance to ban the event on the grounds of security.

Parade organiser Patrycja Pawlak-Kaminska said the ban was unjustified since the march had gone ahead last year despite a similar number of requests for counter-protests.

"But this year, we had a witch hunt against LGBT people in the [EU] electoral campaign, the same way they [PiS] previously went after refugees…. The ban was a political declaration."

Organisers took the...

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