Biden critical of Poland on LGBT rights, backs von der Leyen

By Chris Mularczyk

The Democratic Party candidate for US President Joe Biden has taken to Twitter to support Ursula von der Leyen’s words criticising the alleged existence of LGBT free zones. The EC President’s words were taken as criticism of reports that some Polish local authorities have instituted “LGBT free zones”.

Some Polish local authorities have adopted a family charter, a part of which is a phrase committing themselves to being free of LGBT sex education in schools. It is in that context that the phrase “LGBT ideology free zones” is used.

Reports of there being “LGBT ideology free zone” signs being put up in these local authorities are false. Some LGBT activists organised photo stunts of themselves posing under these signs which are not actually placed in any location in any local authority. The only “LGBT free zone” literature issued in Poland came from a newspaper “Gazeta Polska” who published such a sticker. As a result of legal action against that sticker in a Polish court they had to withdraw that publication.

Last week in her state of the Union address in the European Parliament President of the EC Ursula von der Leyen said she would not let up in a quest to build a Union based on equality in which “one can be whom one wants, love who one wants and live without fear or discrimination..Being yourself is not an ideology, it is your identity which no one may deny”.

She added that “LGBT free zones are zones free of humanity and there is no place for them in the EU. This was widely recognised to the reports of LGBT free zones having been adopted by some Polish local authorities. She concluded that the EC will back the LGBT community and will shortly present a strategy for strengthening the rights of LGBT people.

In a Tweet on Sunday night the US Democratic Party presidential hopeful Joe Biden backed the stance taken by Ms von der Leyen in his re-tweet of a news story from ABC news.

Norway says no funds for criticism of LGBT

In a separate development the foreign minister of Norway Ine Erikesen announced that Norwegian assistance funds in Poland would not be available for local authorities who have passed anti-LGBT resolutions. According to the Norwegian minister such resolutions are a violation of the European Convention of Human Rights. The Norwegian announcement follows in the wake of the EC’s decision to stop EU twinning funds for Polish local authorities which have passed resolutions critical of LGBT ideology.

The Norwegian funds mechanism is a form of contribution to the EU by Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein in exchange for access these countries have to EU markets. A similar fund is operated and made available for Central Europe by the Swiss authorities.

LGBT: a hot political issue in Poland

LGBT rights has become a hot issue in Poland. The Catholic Church and the ruling Law and Justice want to protect existing family law in Poland which gives parents the right to veto any sex education initiative and defines marriage as being between man and woman only. To change either of these provisions the Polish constitution would have to be amended and that would take a ⅔ majority in Parliament.

The campaign for civil partnerships to be instituted is seen by PiS and the Church as a transitional demand on the road to same sex marriage and same sex couples adoption of chldren. LGBT activists admit that this is indeed the case.

This is why the LGBT rights lobby has been keen to engage international opinion behind their campaign. They have been quick to take up what they see as discriminatory behaviour by local authorities which passed the family charter and argue that this is an attack on LGBT people. They also argue that a hostile environment is being created for the LGBT community by the campaign claiming that they are an ideology.

But the LGBT lobby has not been free of confrontational behaviour either. While equality parades are now widely accepted as legitimate demonstrations and attacked only by the radical right fringe as happened in Białystok the display of signs mocking catholic religion on display at these events are not. Nor are the covering of national monuments and religious statues. Finally, there was the case of an activist “Margot” who assaulted a driver and vandalised a vehicle displaying pro-life and anti-LGBT literature which lead to the individual’s arrest and clashes between LGBT activists and the police.

Comment: virtue signalling with consequences

There is no doubt a degree of virtue signalling by Mr Biden in his stance in defence of LGBT in Poland. However, just as his intervention recently arguing there could be no agreement between the US and the UK on trade if the Good Friday Agreement was not respected, this shows an interventionist streak of the presidential hopeful.

The Polish authorities are bound to be concerned by this. President Trump has been supportive of Poland and its current rulers with only disagreements coming over Polish-Israeli relations and discussions over de-concentration of media ownership that would affect the business interests of a major US company.

What the Polish authorities will be particularly concerned about however is any signal that there might be a repeat of the US attempting to reset its relations with the EU in a way which damages its interests. Poland is especially keen to see the US maintain its hard line stance in opposition to the Nord Stream 2 German-Russian pipeline and willingness to sell LNG energy to Poland and help the country with its nuclear energy programme.

If the Democrats take the same line as the EC on Polish internal affairs relations with Poland’s main security ally might be strained. This will of course be music to the ears of Vladimir Putin who has campaigned consistently to paint Poland as a problem country and emphasise its alleged anti-semitic past and “Rusophobia”. Mr Putin can hardly portray himself as a champion of LGBT rights, but he can benefit from any falling out between Poland and its main partners in the US and the EU.

The Polish authorities will have to make a decision about how best to proceed. While their own electoral base expects them to maintain their conservative stance they also have to take account of Poland’s reputation at an international level. This is being affected by the internal heated debate about LGBT rights in the country.