Polish LGBTs' future at stake in runoff presidential election

  • by Heather Cassell, BAR Contributor
  • Wednesday July 1, 2020
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Polish presidential candidates Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, foreground, and incumbent President Andrzej Duda, stand side by side. Photo: East News/Ed. Michal Wroblewski
Polish presidential candidates Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, foreground, and incumbent President Andrzej Duda, stand side by side. Photo: East News/Ed. Michal Wroblewski

Poland's anti-gay right-wing president, Andrzej Duda, was forced into a runoff election against his pro-LGBT liberal opponent, Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski.

Duda, 48, had just under 44% of the vote while Trzaskowski, 48, had just over 30% of the vote with more than 99% of poll results in the high election turnout June 28, reported the BBC.

The runoff is July 12.

Elected to office in 2015, Duda, leader of the Law and Justice party, has gained notoriety for taking away LGBT rights and spewing anti-gay rhetoric, particularly during elections. In 2015, he vetoed the Gender Accordance Act. In 2018, he threatened backing a Russian-style anti-gay propaganda law. Last year, he trumped up anti-gay rhetoric and supported so-called LGBT-free zones in Polish cities. Most recently, he promised to protect Polish families from the propagation of "LGBT ideology" in public institutions.

On Sunday, June 28, European Union Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli pushed back on Duda, telling France 24 that the governing body could withdraw some of Poland's funding if the zones are actually set up.

Leading up to Sunday's election, Duda cozied up with President Donald Trump at a last-minute reception at the White House June 24.

The Human Rights Campaign condemned the Polish president's visit ahead of the election.

HRC President Alphonso David criticized Duda's "clear and unambiguous attempt to leverage Trump's anti-LGBTQ rhetoric in the Polish elections" to rally his base voters rather than offer Polish citizens "effective solutions" to the country's issues, especially during the pandemic.

Instead, "Duda is attempting to shore up his base by running on a virulently anti-LGBTQ platform," David said in a June 22 statement from the organization. "It is a vile, manipulative, and dangerous election tactic that threatens the lives, freedom and dignity of LGBTQ people in Poland.

"By supporting Duda in advancing an anti-LGBTQ platform, President Trump, once again, shows that he is no friend to the LGBTQ community — in the U.S. or abroad," he continued. "We will hold him accountable this November."

In stark contrast, Trzaskowski, who is with the Civic Platform Party, is pro-E.U. and was Poland's first mayor to march in Warsaw's Pride parade in 2019.

Report shows acceptance of LGBT people growing

LGBT people are increasingly winning over hearts and minds the world over, a new survey shows.

Across the more than 30 countries surveyed by the Pew Research Center, a median of 52% agree that homosexuality should be accepted with 38% saying that it should be discouraged, according to the new report published by Pew June 25. For the report, Pew used data from a survey conducted across 34 countries from May 13 to October 2, 2019, totaling 38,426 respondents.

Acceptance of LGBT people is largely dependent upon country, age, level of education, wealth, and religious influence, which haven't changed since Pew conducted its last survey in 2013.

What has changed, researchers noted, is the double-digit increase in acceptance of homosexuality among the countries surveyed from 2002 to 2019.

LGBT people living in the United States (18-point increase), India (22), South Africa (21), Japan (14), South Korea (19), and Mexico (15) have gained the most public acceptance since 2002, according to the report.

India was first included in the survey in 2014, according to researchers, when Section 377 of the country's penal code used to criminalize gay people was reinstated by the country's Supreme Court. Since then the same court struck down the British colonial-era law in 2018.

The country's gross national product and development strongly correlate to a significant influence on people's levels of acceptance of LGBT people, according to the report. People living in wealthier and more developed nations with a per-capita GDP of more than $50,000 had the highest levels of acceptance, whereas nations with less than $10,000 GDP had the lowest acceptance of LGBT people.

"Country wealth, measured by GDP per-capita, is still a driving force for attitudes toward acceptance of homosexuality in society, with people in wealthier countries expressing more acceptance than those in less developed economies," said Jacob Poushter, the study's lead author and Pew's associate director of global attitudes research, told U.S. News and World Report.

Similarly, to the findings in the 2013 Pew report Poushter found that, "Generally, more educated, younger and less religious respondents voiced greater acceptance of homosexuality than those who are less educated, older, or more religious."

Overall, people living in Western Europe and in the Americas were generally more accepting of LGBT people than people living in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. People living in East Asia and Pacific countries were split on their opinion of LGBT rights.

Pew began polling the acceptance of LGBT rights in the U.S. in 1994 and globally in 2002.

To read the full report, click here.

Virtual Prides displayed resilience

Global Pride was a success and reached more than 200 million people from around the world during the 24-hour online event June 27, organizers said.

However, not everyone celebrated or demonstrated at home during the global pandemic.

Some pridegoers took to the streets despite the novel coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than half a million people worldwide. These were smaller gatherings than typically seen at usual Pride events.

More than 500 Pride events around the world were canceled or moved online due to the pandemic.

The event that had its origins in the 1969 Stonewall riots, which since became corporate-sponsored parades in many Western cities, returned to its protest roots. Many people donned face masks and attended rallies supporting Black Lives Matter, racial inequality, and LGBTQ rights and denouncing racial inequality. There are an estimated 70 countries where gay people continue to be criminalized, at least six of which include a death penalty.

Many cities in the United States, such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, celebrated their 50th Prides digitally with online programming. There were also protest marches June 28 in San Francisco and New York.

More than 1,000 colorfully dressed people marched in Taipei, Taiwan's capital city, to mark Pride on Saturday. Taipei Pride is usually held in October.

Sarah Ondrus, a longtime Taipei resident originally from Oregon, said that while she normally attended Taipei Pride, she felt especially compelled to march on the anniversary of Stonewall.

"We're marching for those who can't," Ondrus told the New York Times.

Taiwan was also celebrating its first anniversary of becoming the first country in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.

Berlin saw more than 3,500 demonstrators take to the German capital's streets Saturday for a protest that usually attracts more than a million people at the end of July, when the Christopher Street Day is typically held.

The two countries have been able to successfully flatten the curve against the coronavirus so far.

In Israel, Pride was a different story.

Thousands of pridegoers gathered under the slogan, "The revolution is not over," in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, and Beersheba despite risks due to the rising rates of COVID-19 in the country, reported the Middle East Eye.

As of Monday, Israel reported nearly 24,500 new cases and 319 deaths due to the virus out of its more than 9 million population, according to Worldometers.

In Tel Aviv, thousands of people celebrated with a concert that included Eurovision transgender singer Dana International in Rabin Square June 28.

The scene was much different in Jerusalem.

Police were deployed to the Pride event that also observed the 2015 death of LGBT ally Shira Banki, a teenager who was stabbed by ultra-Orthodox Jew Yishai Shlissel. Shlissel, who was sentenced to life in prison, wounded six others during the incident.

Several hundred people stood for a moment of silence in remembrance of Banki and for other victims of homophobia before the parade started, reported MEE.

A few dozen right-wing demonstrators protested outside pro-LGBT Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon's home. Police arrested 27 people prior to Sunday's event, reported Haaretz.

Got international LGBT news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at WhatsApp: 415-517-7239, or Skype: heather.cassell, or [email protected]

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