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Action against Poland’s ‘LGBT-free zones’ 3
© All Out / Bea Uhart

Inside a day of protest against Poland’s ‘LGBT-free zones’

Activists hand-delivered a 340,000-strong petition to the EU, and projected statements in support of the country’s LGBTQ+ community onto the HQ of the European Commission

LGBTQ+ rights in Poland are under threat. In July, the country’s president, Andrzej Duda, was re-elected into office after a campaign laced with homophobia. Duda, who’s previously described the promotion of LGBTQ+ rights as an “ideology more destructive than communism”, recently launched a “family charter” which pledged to outlaw same-sex marriage, stop LGBTQ+ people from adopting children, and ban education about LGBTQ+ issues in schools.

Poland is also home to a number of abhorrent “LGBT-free zones”, which control a third of the country. Earlier this summer, in the first ruling of its kind, two of these zones were declared unconstitutional and were annulled – but just this week, councillors in another town voted in favour of maintaining the label. 

Now, a joint campaign by LGBTQ+ activist group All Out and local campaigners Kampania Przeciw Homofobii (KPH), titled We’re Under Attack in Poland, is calling on Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Commission, to “condemn these acts of violence and discrimination” and to “pass legislation on hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity”. At the time of writing, the groups’ petition has over 340,000 signatures.

Last week, All Out and KPH got an indirect response from Von der Leyen at her first ‘state of union’ speech, during which she described the zones as “humanity-free zones”, adding that “being yourself is not your ideology, it is your identity”. She also criticised the EU for not calling out human rights abuses. She said: “What holds us back? Why are even simple statements on EU values delayed, watered down, or held hostage from other motives?”

Yesterday (September 22), All Out and KPH took their campaign further, hand-delivering their 340k-strong petition to Helena Dalli, the European commissioner for equality. In a video shared on Twitter, All Out said they were presenting the signatures from “people who are standing in solidarity with LGBTQ+ in Poland, asking for an end to the ‘LGBT-free zones’, and a safer, fairer environment for LGBTQ+ people in Poland”.

In a statement, Matt Beard, All Out’s executive director, said: “Hate and violence against LGBTQ+ people in Poland has reached a boiling point. Polish politicians from the governing party have declared LGBTQ+ people ‘enemies of the state’ and denounce them as ‘an ideology’. Around 100 Polish municipalities have declared themselves ‘LGBT-free zones’.”

He added that the petition “represents a message of love and solidarity from across the world to the LGBTQ+ community in Poland: we hear you and we will stand with you”.

Marcin Rodzinka, the co-chair of KPH, said: “We are now reaching the point when both the European Commission and the Council must act. LGBTQ+ people in Poland still have some hope left, and the EU cannot leave them alone. Where human rights are violated, we need to see a clear opposition and strong action.”

Last night, following the delivery of the petition, All Out and KPH projected messages of solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community in Poland onto the headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels. As well as quoting Von der Leyen, the groups referenced their petition, and declared, “We are not an ideology, we are citizens of Poland”. The projections lit up the building in the rainbow colours of the Pride flag, and directly called on the EU to “turn your words into action”.

“Polish LGBTQ+ people are citizens of the EU,” concluded Beard, “and their fundamental rights must be protected.”

Support All Out and KPH’s campaign by signing their petition here.