Polish region votes to retain barbaric ‘LGBT-free zone’ despite threat to EU funding

Polish LGBT activist Bartosz Staszewski holds a sign saying 'LGBT free zones'

A regional assembly in Poland has voted to retain its degrading “LGBT free zone” designation despite the threat of losing European Union funding.

The southern Malopolska region voted on Thursday (19 August) to keep its designation as an area free of “LGBT ideology”, according to Reuters.

Officials said they had received a letter from the European Commission stating that they could lose out on more than €2.5 billion in funding if they refuse to respect LGBT+ rights.

The letter urged local authorities to scrap their LGBT-free zone resolutions, which were controversially adopted in numerous parts of the country in 2019, adding that they should do so by mid-September at the latest or they would risk losing out on funding.

An opposition motion was brought forward to revoke the resolution, however it was rejected in a vote on Thursday with the help of Poland’s staunchly conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party.

Jan Duda, father to Polish president Andrzej Duda, was one of those who voted against the motion.

“We cannot simply deny what was said in 2019,” Duda, who is council leader in Malopolska, said, according to Reuters.

“We need to meet and rewrite this declaration, as the one from 2019 has been misunderstood.”

LGBT+ citizens of Poland will ‘suffer’

Robert Biedron, a high-profile gay politician who serves in the European Parliament, hit out at the “hatred and anger” of the country’s ruling Law and Justice party following the vote.

“Once again, the hatred and anger of PiS turned out to be more important than the good of citizens, and they will suffer the most from this decision,” he said.

There was widespread backlash in 2019 when it emerged that numerous regions across Poland had declared themselves “LGBT free zones”.

The declarations came following years of pushback against LGBT+ rights in Poland, with some of the country’s leading conservative figures claiming LGBT+ “ideology” represented a threat to Christian values.

Earlier this year, the European Union responded by declaring itself an “LGBT freedom zone”, while a number of towns and regions have already had their EU funding cut due to their anti-LGBT+ policies.

Hungary has also faced the ire of Europe after it introduced a law prohibiting the “promotion” of LGBT+ identities. Human rights bodies have warned that both countries’ laws are part of a general backsliding on LGBT+ rights being seen across parts of Europe and the wider world.