Justice minister to aid "LGBT-free" town which lost EU funds
A Polish town that lost European Union funding after it set up a zone free of "LGBT ideology" will receive government financial support, Poland's justice minister said on Tuesday.
The ruling nationalists' position against gay rights has become a flash-point in a culture war pitting the religious right against more liberal-minded Poles.
Critics, including the European Union, have accused the Law and Justice (PiS) government of backtracking on womens' and LGBT rights and running a campaign laced with homophobic rhetoric in the run-up to last month's presidential election.
"We are supporting a municipality that has a pro-family agenda, promotes support for well-functioning families, and fights against the imposed ideology of LGBT and gender, which is being pushed by the European Commission," Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro told a news conference.
The town of Tuchów in southern Poland will now receive 250,000 zlotys ($67,800) from the ministry's Justice Fund.
Tuchów had its application for a European twinning programme rejected after it passed a motion rejecting "LGBT ideology". Under the programme the town could have applied for a grant of up to 25,000 euros.
EU Equality Commissioner Helena Dalli had said six town-twinning applications involving Polish authorities that adopted "LGBTI free zones" or "family rights" resolutions were rejected.
"We tried find out if there are any other municipalities mentioned by Commissioner Dalli. If we find any, we will reach out to them," Ziobro said.
Since the European Parliament elections last year, about 100 municipalities across Poland have signed declarations saying they are free of "LGBT ideology". These have fuelled concern in Brussels, although they appear not to have been followed by legislation to discriminate against gay residents.
On Monday, figures from the arts including Nobel Prize-winning author Olga Tokarczuk, director Pedro Almodovar and writer Margaret Atwood signed a letter to the European Union calling on Poland's government to stop targeting the LGBT community.
Scuffle with nationalists
Hundreds of Polish nationalists and defenders of LGBT rights faced off against each other on opposite sides of a street in central Warsaw on Sunday (August 16).
The nationalists burnt a rainbow flag, while the LGBT activists painted one on the street. The groups shouted abuse at each other, separated by a line of several police vans and dozens of policemen.
The nationalists' gathering was organised by a far-right movement All-Poland Youth, whose former leader, Krzysztof Bosak, won nearly seven percent in the first round of a presidential election in June.
Gay rights were part of the most recent election campaign in Poland, a staunchly Catholic country, and the issue is still divisive.
President Andrzej Duda, an ally of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, won re-election in July.
During the campaign he had compared what he called LGBT "ideology" to communist doctrine, sparking criticism at home and abroad.
Since then there have been numerous protests by LGBT activists in Warsaw, including a massive one earlier this month when several thousand people demanded the release of an LGBT activist accused of hanging rainbow banners over statues and damaging an anti-abortion campaigner's van.
Źródło: TVN24 News in English, Reuters