Poland’s same-sex couple laws violate human rights code, court rules

People march through the street with rainbow flags during the Warsaw Equality Parade in Poland in 2023

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that the lack of legal recognition and protection for same-sex couples in Poland breaches the European Convention on Human Rights. 

The decision on Tuesday (12 December) was linked to five same-sex couples, whose applications to wed were rejected by Polish authorities who said that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

“The court considered that the Polish state had failed to comply with its duty to ensure that the applicants had a specific legal framework providing for the recognition and protection of their same-sex unions,” an ECHR statement said.

“That failure had resulted in the applicants’ inability to regulate fundamental aspects of their lives and amounted to a breach of their right to respect for their private and family life.”

Poland has often attracted criticism for its anti-LGBTQ+ laws, with same-sex marriage and adoption still illegal. As a result, the country has been rated the worst in the EU for LGBTQ+ people to live in for three successive years. 

The climate for the LGBTQ+ community in Poland seems to be turning around, however, with the queer community celebrating in October as the right-wing government lost its majority in a landmark election.

You may like to watch

Following his win, the former president of the European Council Donald Tusk was sworn in as prime minister on Wednesday (13 December).

Bartosz Staszewski, a film-maker and activist who has fought for LGBTQ+ rights in Poland for years, told PinkNews in October that the election should put an end to what he termed right-wing political games.

“After eight years of horrible right-wing government that was targeting the LGBT minority like never before, now we wake up to this [reality],” he said.

Describing the challenging climate in Poland, including the infamous LGBT free zones, Staszewski said the atmosphere was hostile.

“I felt like a second-category citizen, and we were treated like second-category citizens. The government is telling you that you don’t deserve equal rights, that you are not creating families, that you are an agent of the west trying to fight family values or tradition.

“We know it will be a tough game with politicians who always have something more important do, but I can promise everybody we will fight for the future of all LGBTQ+ people in Poland,” he added. 

In September, Tusk promised to introduce a number of measures to improve the lives of the LGBTQ+ community, adding that the country must “rebuild the language of respect”.

Please login or register to comment on this story.