More evidence of the growing climate of official homophobia in Poland came last week when the right-wing government headed by the gay-baiting Kaczynski twins — President Lech and his brother, Prime Minister Jaroslaw – announced it was planning to pass a sweeping bill that, under the guise of interdicting “the promotion of homosexuality,” would ban discussion of, or teaching about, homosexuality in the schools. The move came just as it was announced that President Kaczynski would deliver the opening address at a World Congress of Families organized this coming May in Poland by gay-hating U.S. Christian right groups.
The schools bill is sponsored by the Kaczynskis' Minister of Education, notorious anti-gay demagogue Roman Giertych, who is also Deputy Prime Minister. Giertych is the leader of the Catholic nationalist, anti-Semitic League of Polish Families party, the Kaczynskis coalition partner in government. Vice Minister of Education Miroslaw Orzechowski told reporters that the main goal of the law is to “punish whomever promotes homosexuality or any other deviance of a sexual nature in educational establishments,” and that any teacher who violated the law could be fired, fined, and even imprisoned. “There are children in schools who could be susceptible to homosexual political agitation, and that puts homosexual propaganda in direct opposition to the elementary interests of our state,” Orzechowski said, singling out safe-sex flyers distributed in some schools which showed two men kissing. “We have to exert our influence while we still can and not wait until it is too late,” the Vice Minister added.
Polish gay activists said the anti-gay schools bill — which has been fast-tracked, and could become law within weeks — underscored the Kaczynski government’s aggressive attitude toward homosexuals. “The gay and lesbian community is isolated in Polish society, it is hated,” said Robert Biedron, chairman of the Polish Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH). Poland is the most Catholic country in Europe, and, Biedron said, “More and more gay people are victims of physical abuse, so I’m very much concerned that Poland will become the Cuba or North Korea of Europe.”
Commenting on Vice Minister Orzechowski’s remarks about the schools bill and his declaration that any teacher who violated it could be fired or imprisoned, gay activist Biedron said, “When Orzechkowski made this statement about the law, even the journalists asked whether this kind of isolation of gay people is a first step and, if so, what will be the next? Don’t we already know this kind of language from not so ancient history? Are we waiting for camps for LGBT people?” Biedron’s reference to Nazi Germany’s persecution of homosexuals, who were victims of the Holocaust along with Jews, Gypsies, and other minorities, was unmistakable. Biedron added that “more and more dangerous measures every day” aimed at gay people mean that “Poland is like an island drifting away from Europe.”
At the beginning of this month, Education Minister Giertych told a meeting of European Union (EU) education ministers in Heidelberg, Germany, that any future European constitution should include a ban on rights for homosexuals and on abortion. “The propaganda for homosexuality is reaching ever younger children,” Giertych said, claiming that “in some countries it is even forbidden for children in hospital to talk or read about mommy and daddy, because this allegedly violates minority rights.”
“Europe needs changes,” Giertych affirmed in his March 1 Heidelberg speech, saying that abortion — which he called “a new form of barbarism” — “must be banned,” and demanding that “homosexual propaganda must also be limited so children will have the correct view of the family.”
Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who had previously called for banning gay teachers from schools, endorsed Education Minister Giertych’s anti-gay schools bill, saying that “Recommending a homosexual lifestyle to young people in schools as an alternative to normal life goes too far. These kinds of initiatives in schools have to be stopped.”
The European Parliament’s committee on civil liberties announced this week that it will investigate Giertych’s bill, and that it has asked the EuroParliament’s legal staff to see if it the proposed legislation is compatible with European anti-discrimination regulations, or if it violates European norms on freedom of expression.
Concerned MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) are preparing oral questions to the European Commission and the German EU presidency for the Commission’s April 10-11 plenary session in Strasbourg. One of the parliamentarians, Kathalijne Buitenweg, a Dutch Green MEP, said serious questions surround Poland's commitment to fundamental rights: „It is shocking that the government of a modern European country would even consider such draconian legislation — the promotion of gay hatred is the antithesis of EU anti-discrimination rules and the Polish government must publicly reject this approach,” she said. The International Herald-Tribune reported this Tuesday that Buitenweg said EU parliamentarians will lobby against the legislation with the EU's executive Commission and the Council of EU Ministers, which represents the 27 EU member states. Giertych’s bill has been denounced by both Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW.)
Amnesty International said in a statement that “the measure would deprive students of their right to freedom of expression,of a full education, and of the right to associate freely. It wouldinstitutionalize discrimination in Poland's school system. It would criminalize anybody who promotes equality regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. In short, if the measure is enacted, Poland would be in violation of its obligations under international and regional human rights treaties to which Poland is a state party and its commitments when the country joined the European Union.”
And HRW’s LGBT affairs director Scott Long said that, “Polish authorities claim to be protecting families, but in fact they are trying to deny children free speech and lifesaving information on HIV/AIDS; schools should be training grounds for tolerance, not bastions of repression and discrimination.”
Meanwhile, Poland will be invaded by a host of U.S. Christian Right activists when a World Congress of Families (WCF) is held in Warsaw on May 11-13, and President Kaczynski – who twice banned Gay Pride marches when he was mayor of Warsaw — is both Honorary Patron of this so-called Congress and, it was announced last week, will give the opening speech there. The WCF is the brainchild of the paleoconservative Rockford Institute, which describes itself as committed to spreading the values of “Western Christendom” and is based in Rockford, Illinois; and of its front-group, the Howard Center, headed by Allan Carlson, former executive director of the Rockford Institute.
Among the U.S. co-sponsors of the Warsaw WCF one finds such notoriously anti-gay propagandists as: the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, a right-wing Catholic group that crusades against condoms; the Beverly LaHaye Institute (part of the conservative think tank, Concerned Women for America and founded by Beverly LaHaye and her Christian right activist husband Rev. Tim LaHaye, co-founder of the Moral Majority); another anti-condom crusader, the Catholic Family and Human
Rights Institute; Defending the Family International, headed by long-time anti-gay activist Scott Lively (author of The Pink Swastika, which claims that “homosexuals [are] the true inventors of Nazism and the guiding force behind many Nazi atrocities”); the Family Research Council, founded by infamous gay-baiter Dr. James Dobson, and Focus on the Family, another Dobson-founded group, both of which are noted as leading Christian right lobbies and anti-gay propagandists; the Heritage Foundation, the Washington, D.C. based right-wing think-tank; the Institute for American Values, a leading anti-gay marriage campaigner; the National Association for Marriage Enhancement, an ultraconservative Evangelical Christian group in the forefront of the effort to pass anti-gay marriage referendums in the states; United Families International, an Arizona-based anti-gay marriage crusader; and more.
According to WCF organizers, more than 3500 “pro-family” activists are expected to attend their Warsaw conclave. This U.S. Christian right invasion of Poland is nicely timed to reinforce the Kaczynski government's hard-line drive against gays.
Doug Ireland is a longtime radical political journalist and media critic, who considers himself a purveyor of what the great I.F. Stone (at whose feet Doug sat as a lad) called „investigative opinion.” Even those with whom Doug has profound disagreements respect him–like Christopher Hitchens, who wrote (in the May, 2004 Vanity Fair) that Doug „is one of the country’s toughest and brightest radical columnists.”
Doug got his start in journalism as a lad on the New York Post (in the pre-Murdoch days, when the paper was still owned by Dolly Schiff and was the most liberal daily in the country), and as a young man worked for a wire service. He's been a columnist for the Village Voice (serving for seven years as its chief media critic), the New York Observer, and the Parisian daily Liberation, among other publications (and for the late, lamented SoHo Weekly News). He lived for a decade in France, writing on European politics and culture for a wide variety of publications on both sides of the Atlantic, visits France whenever he can, and often writes about French and European politics for a Stateside audience. During the Clinton presidency, for three years he wrote a syndicated column called The Clinton Watch, which appeared in alternative weeklies around the country. A longtime contributor to The Nation magazine, he's a contributing editor of POZ magazine and In These Times, and the former media critic for TomPaine.com. His articles have appeared in many U.S. and French publications. Among those he writes for regularly these days is the L.A. Weekly, where his articles on politics frequently appear. He's also senior contributing editor of Page One Q.
Prior to consecrating himself fulltime to journalism in 1977, before he reached the age of 30 Doug had worked on the staff of four presidential campaigns for liberal Democrats, and successfully managed the campaigns that elected progressives like Bella Abzug and Allard Lowenstein to Congress and Paul O'Dwyer New York City Council President. He managed Bella's campaign for U.S. Senate in New York, which she tragically lost, by less than 10,000 votes out of 1 milllion cast, to Pat Moynihan. He also served stints in New York City and New York State government, and on the staff of the United Auto Workers and the N.J. Industrial Union Council AFL-CIO.
Doug has been out of the closet as a gay man since 1973, and has written extensively about gay political issues. His partner of a dozen years, Herve Coeurgou, died of AIDS eight years ago. Doug lives and writes in New York City, but considers Paris his second home. Website: http://direland.typepad.com/