LGBT Rights In Poland Will Remain An ‘Ideology’

After failing to win a majority in the Polish Presidential election – June 28th – Andrzej Duda went head-to-head in the second round with Rafal Trzaskowski this Monday. He won by a narrow margin (51.1% to 48.9%), to the despair of partisans of LGBT rights.

Duda, the incumbent President, hails from Poland’s traditionalist Law and Justice party (PiS). He has centred his Presidential campaign around the party’s core values – family and Christianity. But Duda’s biggest plays have been attacking the LGBT movement.

In the run-up to the first election he called the movement an ‘ideology’ more destructive than communism, playing to his people’s fears. Nearly two thirds of Polish people were alive when Poland transitioned from Soviet-imposed communism to semi-democracy. Many welcomed the change. Comparing the LGBT movement to communism suggests that it, too, is something to be left in the past.

Duda also signed a ‘family charter,’ pledging to ban schools from teaching LGBT rights and to maintain bans on gay marriage and adoption by gay couples. He justifies his stance by saying that children should not be exposed to hyper-sexualization, like that of the West, and by frequently criticizing over-exposure to pornography, as if that were one and the same with gay rights.

This is a blow for believers in equality. Poland is already ranked lowest among EU countries in the Rainbow Index for Gay Rights. Though the country allows gay people to give blood and outlaws discrimination in employment, it fails even to account for issues like gender identity in its legislature.

Duda will not have the power to suppress rights willy-nilly. But his presidency is an obstacle to progress. He has the power to veto any law he disagrees with, and the parliamentary majority to get away with it. In his last term, Duda capitalized on his power to scrap a law for trans rights. It seems unlikely that gay marriage, currently outlawed under Poland’s constitution, will come any closer to realization, and very likely that Poland will remain low in the Rainbow Index.

The picture for the next five years – that’s the time until the next Presidential election – looks pretty bleak for LGBT partisans in Poland. But hope persists. Duda’s victory was the narrowest seen in the country since Poland began democratic elections in 1990. The success of his competitor, Rafał Trzaskowski, indicates that change is slowly sweeping the country. Trzaskowski has triumphed on the back of liberal tendencies in conservative Poland, having advocated for the universal right to civil partnership and partaken in Warsaw’s LGBT parade. As the city’s mayor, he is popular among Warsaw’s young.

LGBT rights will be stagnant in Poland for now. Duda will see to that. But his blockades on the tide of change are tiring. Flip-flopping polls disagree about the proportion of Poles that support civil unions for same-sex couples, but they all put the figure around 50% – and rising. If that number grows, change may finally flow.

Nial Perry