Polish town repeals 'LGBT-free zone' resolution after losing millions in funding

Krasnik has axed its 'LGBT-free zone' after the mayor said it caused an 'image crisis' for the town, costing them millions worth of funding.

A Pride march passing by armed police

The Polish town of Krasnik has voted to repeal its 2019 anti-gay resolution that led it to be described as an ‘LGBT-free zone’. It comes in the wake of a loss of funding from Norway and the EU over the discriminatory move.

The repeal was led by the town’s mayor, Wojciech Wilk, who was initially in favour of the move thinking it would provide a boost from his conservative base and be mostly symbolic. In the justification for the repeal, he wrote that the adoption of the resolution caused serious reputational damage.

“Kraśnik began to be perceived as a homophobic city and hostile to people representing the LGBT community. Such an image has been recorded in numerous Polish and foreign media reports, in the statements of LGBT activists and politicians.” In April the New York Times reported on the town, as did GCN.

He also argued that the town needed the money that has been withheld from them because of the existence of the ‘LGBT-free zone’. Since July 2020, the European Union has denied funding from the Structural Funds and Cohesion Fund to municipalities that have adopted “LGBT-free” declarations, which are in violation of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Krasnik itself has been denied access to €3-10 million worth of funding from Norway as part of the European Economic Area Financial Mechanism.

Many twinning arrangements between foreign towns and Polish ones which have adopted ‘LGBT-free zones’ have been cancelled too, including a twinning between Fermoy in Cork and the Polish town of Nowa Dęba. A few months later, Nowa Dęba rescinded the declaration that it was an ‘LGBT-free zone’. 

The zones were first introduced in 2019 and by June 2020, 100 of Poland’s municipalities, accounting for around a third of the population, had adopted resolutions leading them to be called ‘LGBT-free zones’. None of these zones have any legal enforcements that can prevent LGBTQ+ people from entering or living there but they serve as a reprimand of what their proponents call ‘LGBT ideology’ and allow the banning of equality marches and other LGBT events.

The Krasnik council voted to repeal the resolution with nine in favor, six against, four abstentions, and one person who did not vote. There was no apology to LGBTQ+ people of the town nor acknowledgement of the pain the resolution had caused to them. “By repealing, we can take a very big step in overcoming our image crisis,” said Mayor Wojciech Wilk ahead of the vote, quoted by Dziennik Wschodni. “Whether fairly or not, we are not presented very sympathetically,” he continued. “If we repeal this resolution, we have a better chance of obtaining external funds in the future.”

However, the French Secretary of State for European Affairs Clément Beaune, who is openly gay, hailed it as “a real symbol, a real breakthrough”. Last month he had planned to visit Krasnik during a trip to Poland in an effort to bring attention to the country’s ‘LGBT-free zones’, but said he was subjected to “political pressure” from the Polish authorities not to and subsequently called off the visit.

German MEP Terry Reintke said that the repeal shows that “this form of discrimination can be turned around again. With clear words and actions.” Polish LGBTQ+ activist Bart Staszewski said: “Kraśnik is the sixth city to withdraw from the anti-LGBT resolution. The LGBT-free zone was in force there for 700 days. It is a great success of local activists and law enforcement organizations.”

© 2021 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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