Poles appeal for funds to establish LGBT centre

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Polish lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans activists are asking for help to establish the first LGBT centre in Poland.

Szymon Niemiec, founder of the Polish Equality Parade, needs 75 000 euros in donations in order to establish the facility in Warsaw.

Mr Niemiec said: “The Queer Central Station will be a place where everyone is welcome.

“It is our desire to encourage artists worldwide to contribute to a special gallery with periodical exhibitions.

“We envisage a small shop that will include literature about homosexuals and other interesting topics and perhaps other items.”

Poland is a very conservative Roman Catholic country, where for many people the teachings of the Church are still the sole basis of moral grounding.

The country has had a poor record on LGBT rights since joining the EU in 2004.

The election of the homophobic Lech Kaczynski as President in 2005 and the elevation of his twin brother Jaroslaw to the office of Prime Minister that year hampered efforts by gay groups and the EU to push through legal protections for LGBT people.

The brothers are members of the Law and Justice Party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc), a political party with deeply held homophobic attitudes.

In 2005 Lech Kaczynski, as Mayor of the city of Warsaw, refused to issue a permit for a gay Pride parade.

A short while later he issued a permit for a “normality parade,” which was denounced by the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) as a “demonstration whose main objective was an incitation to hate and intolerance toward LGBT people.”

Amnesty International has also expressed concern about a climate of intolerance in Poland against the LGBT community, characterised by the banning of public events organised by the LBGT community, openly homophobic language used by some highly placed politicians, and incitement of homophobic hatred by some right-wing groups.

Amnesty International also expressed concern over the recent abolition of the government office responsible for promotion of equal treatment for sexual minorities.

The removal of Jaroslaw Kaczynski from power late last year and his replacement with Donald Tusk as Prime Minister as leader of the Civic Platform (Platform Obywatelska) did little to improve the Polish government’s attitude to gay rights.

In December 2007 the European Court of Human Rights issued a ruling upholding its previous verdict against the Polish Government and the ban by the Warsaw city authorities of the city’s Gay Pride in 2005, declaring such a ban to be illegal.

Despite this ruling, in January of this year Civic Platform declared the ruling void in Poland.

It is hoped that the establishment of a permanent centre in Warsaw will act as a visible sign of the LGBT rights movement in Poland that will act as a teaching tool and a rallying point for the community.

Donations can be made at www.friendsofszymon.org