Poland: Ex-president Lech Walesa defends anti-gay remarks by saying 95% agree with him

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Lech Walesa, the former President of Poland and Nobel Peace Prize winner, is still refusing to apologise for a TV interview in which he said gay people should take a small role in politics and even “sit behind a wall” in the Polish Parliament.

All Out have begun a petition to get Mr Walesa to apologise for the remarks, which at the time of writing has received 4,378 signatures out of a goal of 5,000.

“Right now, Poland is at a crossroads,” All Out said in a statement.

“People like Walesa are resisting change while others fight hard for Poland to move forward. There have been amazing historic steps. In 2011, Poland elected the very first transgender MP in Europe! But there have been setbacks too, like a recent narrow defeat of a civil partnerships law.

“Lech Walesa’s anti-gay comments turned the world’s media spotlight towards Poland. If Walesa is forced to apologise due to overwhelming public pressure, it would be a huge boost to every gay, lesbian, bi and trans person living in Poland,” the campaign group said.

So far, Mr Walesa has resisted all calls to apologise.

In a radio interview on Monday, he stood by his words and said he was “fed up with [gay people] flaunting”.

Mr Walesa has also published letters on his person blog which he says were sent to him in support for his comments.

The News translates Mr Walesa’s blog as arguing: “The lord God created woman and man and told then to reproduce. If everyone followed the example of homosexuals, who would pay for our retirement?”

He publishes several letters in support of his views, and claims that of the many notes he received about the TV interview 95% of them were in support.

One of the letters published on the blog said: “I support your remark. Also, I’m of the opinion that queers and lesbians are ill as a result of their own wishes, they are perverts.”

Another commended Mr Walesa for his “manliness”, saying: “I must congratulate you on the bravery and manliness that you showed. Mr President, the time has come to unite the nation and take up the fight for a great Poland.”

Stefan Niesiolowski, an MP for the ruling Civic Platform party, said the letters were on the level of “graffiti in toilets”.

However, Mr Niesiolowski, who in 2008 said that gay couples raising children had a “serious pathology”, added that he did not disagree with Mr Walesa’s views and felt that the media’s treatment of him had been “mean”.

Professor Magdalena Sroda said that the comments were part of a trend in which Polish politicians got away with hate speech.

“For some time now a group of ‘new barbarians’ has been emerging, treating freedom as an opportunity to disregard norms of etiquette, politeness and civilised behaviour,” she said.

The controversy was sparked in an interview with news channel TVN24 at the weekend, in which Mr Walesa, who left office in 1995, was questioned about his views on LGBT rights in Poland.

Asked where in parliament he felt gay people could sit, he said: “Homosexuals should even sit behind a wall, and not somewhere at the front,” arguing that they should not be able to “climb all over the majority”.

“They must know they are a minority and adapt themselves to smaller things, and not rise to the greatest heights,” he added.