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Local Governments In Poland Rescind Anti-LGBT Resolutions, Fearing Loss Of EU Funding

Catholics gathered in front of Warsaw's church of Holy Cross in an anti-LGBT protest in May.
Piotr Lapinski
NurPhoto via Getty Images
Catholics gathered in front of Warsaw's church of Holy Cross in an anti-LGBT protest in May.

Riding support from Poland's right-wing populist Law and Justice Party and the local Roman Catholic clergy, nearly 100 provinces and municipalities in 2019 passed symbolic resolutions declaring themselves "LGBT-free."

But two years later, and the central government is asking them to repeal those declarations after the European Union threatened to cut off millions of euros in funding to local and provincial governments that took an anti-LGBT stance. By doing so, they may be in violation of the EU's regulations against discrimination due to sexual orientation, the European Commission says.

Early this month, the EC wrote to five regional councils in Poland calling on them to rescind their "LGBT-free" stance if they wanted to continue receiving funding, according to Reuters.

The statements — while not actionable — are meant to signal the local governments' conservative values and opposition to what some Polish leaders refer to as "LGBT ideology."

On Monday, the southern provinces of Malopolskie, Lubelskie and Podkarpackie provinces complied, following a similar move last week by the regional assembly of Swietokrzyskie, Reuters reports, quoting the Polish PAP news agency.

The chairman of Malopolskie's assembly, Witold Kozłowski, said in a statement that while the region is "built on values ​​and based on the centuries-old tradition of Christianity," he and his fellow councilors had no desire "to take responsibility for keeping [Malopolskie] without these EU funds."

In Podkarpackie, the assembly appeared to make the move less begrudgingly, going a step further by passing a resolution declaring the province "a region of well-established tolerance."

Lubelskie also approved a motion affirming "the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms" that also supports "the right of parents to raise their children according to their beliefs," Reuters says.

Since coming to power in 2015, the EU-skeptic, anti-immigrant Law and Justice Party has sought to woo voters with its "pro-family" social agenda that meshes neatly with the 9 in 10 Poles who identify as Catholic. In return, the church has given its "unwavering" support to Law and Justice, with priests in the country's conservative countryside often encouraging their parishioners to vote for the party's candidates, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

The party has also shown authoritarian tendencies, reportedly seeking to use the country's public broadcaster against the opposition, granting lawmakers greater power to appoint judges and cracking down on dissent from judges who object.

Last year, Poland's President Andrzej Duda declared that "LGBT is not people, it's an ideology." He said that during Poland's communist era children had been indoctrinated. "Today, there are also attempts to push an ideology on us and our children, but different. It's totally new, but it is also neo-Bolshevism," he said, according to The Associated Press.

Poland also has tightened its tough anti-abortion laws — some of the strictest in Europe. Despite large protests, a ban on nearly all abortions went into effect at the beginning of 2021, removing an exception for fetal deformities. The law now allows abortions only in cases of rape or incest, or when the mother's health or life is in danger.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.