Mother whose kids were taken away because she’s queer wins long-overdue ruling

Participants holding placards supporting the LGBT+ community during Krakow Equality March in Poland

Poland has been ordered to pay compensation to a woman whose children were taken away because she is queer, Europe’s leading human rights court has ruled.

Judges for the European Court of Human Rights ruled on Thursday (16 September) that the Polish government discriminated against the unnamed mother because of her sexual orientation.

The applicant, who was born in 1970, divorced her husband in 2005. The court heard there was a custody conflict between the applicant and her husband over their four children.

She had been granted full parental rights over their children, but her former husband applied for a change of custody rights in October 2006.

However, a Polish court ruled in the man’s favour and granted him full parental rights after it was revealed that the mother started a relationship with another woman.

According to the European Court of Human Rights document, the Polish court stated that the mother would not “abandon her excessive proximity to [her partner] for the sake of her relationship with [the children]”.

The court claimed the mother’s “parental behaviour is incorrect” because of her “personal problems and emotional involvement in a relationship with another woman”.

The unnamed woman appealed the ruling, citing that she had been the main carer for the children. But her appeal was dismissed in January 2008.

In June 2009, she applied for custody of her youngest child, but this second appeal was dismissed as well.

She eventually took her case to the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled in her favour. The judges said the unnamed woman’s same-sex relationship featured heavily in all “sets of the proceedings” in court.

“The inescapable conclusion is that her sexual orientation and relationship with another woman was consistently at the centre of deliberations in her regard and omnipresent at every stage of the judicial proceedings,” the European Court of Human Rights judges said.

The court concluded there was a “different in treatment between the applicant and any other parent wishing to have full custody” of their children because of her sexual orientation.

The European Court of Human Rights ordered Poland to pay the woman €10,000 in damages.

Poland has faced international criticism over its ‘LGBT-free zones’ which began appearing in 2019 as numerous regions across Poland declared themselves free of “LGBT ideology”.

Earlier this year, the European Union (EU) declared itself an “LGBTIQ freedom zone” in a symbolic protest against the discriminatory policies promoted in Poland.

The EU has also launched legal action against Poland and Hungary over their anti-LGBT+ laws. The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, said it would be taking action against both countries for “violations of fundamental rights of LGBTIQ people”.

The commission said Poland will face action after it “failed to fully and appropriately respond to its inquiry regarding the nature and impact of the so-called ‘LGBT-ideology free zones’”. EU officials said they believed these declarations may violate EU’s law regarding non-discrimination due to sexual orientation.