LGBT rights in Poland
|LGBT rights in Poland |
|Same-sex sexual intercourse legal status||Legal. Both male and female never criminalised; legality reconfirmed in 1932|
|Gender identity/expression||Transgender persons allowed to change legal gender|
|Military service||Lesbians, gays and bisexuals allowed to serve openly|
|Discrimination protections||Sexual orientation protections (see below)|
|Limited cohabitation rights|
|Same-sex marriage banned|
|Adoption||Same-sex couples not allowed to adopt|
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in Poland face legal challenges not faced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal in Poland. This was formally codified in 1932, and Poland introduced an equal age of consent for homosexuals and heterosexuals, which was set at 15. Poland provides LGBT people with the same rights as heterosexuals in certain areas: gay and bisexual men are allowed to donate blood, gays and bisexuals are allowed to serve openly in the Polish Armed Forces, and transgender people are allowed to change their legal gender following certain requirements including undergoing sex reassignment surgery. Polish law bans employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. No protections for education, health services, hate crimes and hate speech exist, however. In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that it is illegal to deny goods and services on the basis of sexual orientation.
Polish society tends to be socially conservative with issues dealing with LGBT rights. A majority of the Polish population affiliate with the Catholic Church. As such, Catholic mores strongly influence public perception and tolerance of the LGBT community. Article 18 of the Polish Constitution states that "Marriage, as a union of a man and a woman [...] shall be placed under the protection and care of the Republic of Poland." which has led to different interpretations as well as legal cases over whether or not the Constitution disallows same-sex marriages. Poland does not recognise civil unions either, though discussion on this issue is ongoing. Nevertheless, attitudes are evolving and becoming more accepting, in line with worldwide trends. In 2011, Anna Grodzka became the third transgender member of parliament in the world, following Georgina Beyer of New Zealand and Vladimir Luxuria of Italy. Additionally, in 2014, gay activist Robert Biedroń was elected the Mayor of Słupsk. Acceptance for LGBT people in Polish society increased in the 1990s and early 2000s, mainly amongst younger people and those living in larger cities such as Warsaw and Kraków. There is a visible gay scene with clubs all around the country, most of them located in the large urban areas. There are also several gay rights organizations, the two biggest ones being Campaign Against Homophobia and Lambda Warszawa. Opinion polls have shown that a majority of Poles now support civil unions for same-sex couples, limited legal rights such as inheritance and the right to make medical decisions, as well as the recognition of foreign same-sex marriages.
Many left-wing political parties, namely the Democratic Left Alliance, Labour United, the Social Democracy Party, Your Movement and the Modern party, have expressed support for the gay rights movement. Individual voices of support can also be found in the centre-right Civic Platform.
Legality of same-sex sexual activity
There was never any anti-homosexual law under a free and democratic Polish Government. During the Partitions of Poland (1795–1918), laws prohibiting homosexuality were imposed by the occupying powers. Homosexuality was recognized by law in 1932 with the introduction of a new penal code. The age of consent was set to 15, equal to that of heterosexual partners. Homosexual prostitution was legalized in 1969. Homosexuality was deleted from the list of diseases in 1991.
Recognition of same-sex relationships
There is no legal recognition of same-sex couples in Poland. Same-sex marriage is constitutionally not recognized, as Article 18 of the Constitution of Poland states that "Marriage, being a union of a man and a woman, as well as the family, motherhood and parenthood, shall be placed under the protection and care of the Republic of Poland.", which has led to many debates over whether or not it is a definitive ban on same-sex marriage.
A civil unions bill was first proposed in 2003. In 2004, under a left-wing Government, the Senate approved the bill allowing gay and lesbian couple to register their relationship. Parties to a civil union under the bill would have been given a great range of benefits, protections and responsibilities (e.g. pension funds, joint tax and death-related benefits), currently granted only to spouses in a marriage, although they would not have been allowed to adopt children. The bill lapsed in the 2005 general election, however.
The major opposition to introducing same-sex marriages or civil unions comes from the Roman Catholic Church, which is influential politically, holding a considerable degree of influence in the state. The Church also enjoys immense social prestige. The Church holds that homosexuality is a deviation. The nation is 95% Roman Catholic, with 54% practicing every week.
In January 2013, the Sejm voted to reject five proposed bills that would have introduced civil partnerships for both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. The High Court later issued an opinion stating that the bills proposed by the Democratic Left Alliance, Your Movement and Civic Platform were all unconstitutional, as Article 18 of the Constitution protects marriage.
In December 2014, the Sejm refused to deal with a civil partnership bill proposed by Your Movement, with 235 MPs voting against debating the bill, and 185 MPs voting for.
In May 2015, the Sejm again refused to deal with the topic, with 215 MPs voting against and only 146 for. Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said that civil partnerships were an issue for the next Parliament to deal with.
A new registered partnership bill was proposed on 12 February 2018 by the Modern party.
Parliament vote on civil unions
Limited cohabitation rights
While Poland possesses no specific law on cohabitation, it does have a few provisions in different legal acts or Supreme Court rulings that recognise relations between unmarried partners and provide said partners specific rights and obligations. For example, Article 115(11) of the Penal Code (Polish: Kodeks karny) uses the term "the closest person", which covers romantic relations that are not legally formalised. The status of "the closest person" gives the right of refusal to testify against the partner. The term "partner" is not explicitly defined.
A resolution of the Supreme Court from 28 November 2012 (III CZP 65/12) on the interpretation of the term "a person who has lived actually in cohabitation with the tenant" was issued with regard to the case of a gay man who was the partner of a deceased person, the main tenant of the apartment. The Court interpreted the law in a way that recognised the surviving partner as authorised to take over the right to tenancy. The Court stated that the person actually remaining in cohabitation with the tenant - in the meaning of Article 691 § 1 of the Civil Code - is a person connected with the tenant by a bond of emotional, physical and economic nature. This also includes a person of the same sex. Previously, in March 2010, the European Court of Human Rights ruled, in the case of Kozak v. Poland, that LGBT people have the right to inherit from their partners.
Anti-discrimination provisions were added to the Labour Code in 2003. The Polish Constitution guarantees equality in accordance with law and prohibits discrimination based on "any reason". The proposal to include a prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the Constitution was rejected in 1995, after strong Catholic Church objections.
In 2007, an anti-discrimination law was under preparation by the Ministry of Labour that would prohibit discrimination on different grounds, including sexual orientation, not only in work and employment, but also in social security and social protection, health care, and education, although the provision of and access to goods and services would only be subject to a prohibition of discrimination on grounds of race or ethnic origin. On 1 January 2011, a new law on equal treatment entered into force. It prohibits sexual orientation discrimination in employment only. In September 2015, Amnesty International concluded that "the LGBTI community in Poland faces widespread and ingrained discrimination across the country" and that "Poland's legal system falls dangerously short when it comes to protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and other minority groups from hate crimes".
In June 2018, the Polish Supreme Court ruled that a Łódź printer acted illegally when he refused to print banners for an LGBT business group. The court argued that the principle of equality meant the printer did not have the right to withhold services from the LGBT business. The court also ruled that sexual orientaion, race or other features of a person cannot be the basis for refusal to offer a service, but that freedom of conscience and religion must also be taken into account. The Campaign Against Homophobia welcomed the ruling, but it was condemned by Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro who called the ruling "against freedom" and "state violence in service of the ideology of homosexual activists".
Hate crime laws
Gender identity and expression
Legal gender changes have been performed since the 1960s. Transgender people seeking to change their legal gender must undergo sex reassignment surgery and receive a medical diagnosis.
In July 2015, the Polish Sejm approved a transgender recognition bill. Under the bill, transgender people would have been able to change gender without any physical interventions, but would have required statements from mental health experts that they are indeed suffering from gender dysphoria. The bill was approved 252 to 158. The Senate approved the bill in August. President Andrzej Duda vetoed it in October, and Parliament subsequently failed to override the veto.
Gay and bisexual men have been allowed to donate blood in Poland since 2005. In 2008, the National Blood Center established regulations banning blood donation by gay and bisexual men, but the regulations were quickly repealed.
Social attitudes and public opinion
An opinion poll conducted in late 2006 at the request of the European Commission indicated that Polish public opinion was overwhelmingly opposed to same-sex marriage and to adoption by same-sex couples. A 2006 Eurobarometer poll found that 74% and 89% of Poles respectively were opposed to same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples. Of the EU member states surveyed, only Latvia and Greece had higher levels of opposition. A poll in July 2009 showed that 87% of Poles were against gay adoption. A poll from 23 December 2009 for Newsweek Poland reported another shift towards more positive attitudes. Sixty percent of respondents stated that they would have no objections to having an openly gay minister or a head of government.
A 2008 study revealed that 66% of Poles believed that gay people should not have the right to organize public demonstrations, 69% of Poles believed that gay people should not have the right to show their way of life. Also, 37% of Poles believed that gay people should have the right to engage in sexual activity, with 37% believing they should not.
A 2010 study published in the newspaper Rzeczpospolita revealed that Poles overwhelmingly opposed same-sex marriage and the adoption of children by same-sex couples. 80% of Poles opposed same-sex marriage and 93% of Poles opposed adoption.
In 2010, an IIBR opinion poll conducted for Newsweek Poland found that 43% of Poles agreed that openly gay people should be banned from military service. 38% thought that such a ban should not exist in the Polish military.
In 2011, according to a poll by TNS Polska, 54% of Poles supported same-sex partnerships, while 27% supported same-sex marriage.
In a 2013 opinion poll conducted by CBOS, 68% of Poles were against gays and lesbians publicly showing their way of life, 65% of Poles were against same-sex civil unions, 72% were against same-sex marriage and 88% were against adoption by same-sex couples.
In a CBOS opinion poll from August 2013, a majority (56%) of respondents stated that "homosexuality is always wrong and can never be justified". 26% stated that there is nothing wrong with it and can always be justified". 12% were indifferent.
|Support for the recognition of same-sex relationships||2011
|Acceptance of a homosexual as a... (CBOS, July 2005)||Gay (Yes)||Gay (No)||Lesbian (Yes)||Lesbian (No)|
The parties on the left of the political scene generally approve of the postulates of the gay rights movement and vote in favour of the new LGBT legislation. The Democratic Left Alliance, Modern, Labor United and Your Movement are supporters of LGBT rights. More right-wing parties, such as PO, PiS and PSL, are generally against any changes in legislation. Out of these, PiS takes the strongest oppositional stance on homosexual issues.
Law and Justice
After the 2005 elections, the Law and Justice party (PiS) came to power. They formed a coalition government with the League of Polish Families (LPR) and the Self-Defence Party (Samoobrona). The politicians of these parties have often been labelled as "homophobic" by LGBT rights activists, both before and after the 2005 elections. Prominent government figures have made several homophobic and unscientific comments with regards to homosexuality, and have tried to suppress freedom of speech and freedom of assembly for LGBT people:
"Let's not be misled by the brutal propaganda of homosexuals' postures of tolerance. It is a kind of madness, and for that madness, our rule will indeed be for them a dark night"— Kazimierz Michał Ujazdowski, PiS, 3 October 2005
"If a person tries to infect others with their homosexuality, then the state must intervene in this violation of freedom."— Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, Prime Minister, PiS, 11 May 2006
"If deviants begin to demonstrate, they should be hit with batons."— Wojciech Wierzejski, LPR, 9 October 2006
In the city of Koscierzyna, Waldemar Bonkowski, a leading member of PiS, hung up a banner that read, "Today it’s gays and lesbians – what’s next, zoophilia? Is that liberty and democracy? No, that’s syphilisation! Our Polish pope is looking down from the sky and asking, 'Whither goest thou, Poland?'" on the wall of the local party headquarters.
During the presidential campaign before the 2005 election, Lech Kaczyński, who won the election, stated that he would continue to ban LGBT demonstrations, as he did while Mayor of Warsaw, and that "public promotion of homosexuality will not be allowed".
On 17 March 2008, Kaczyński delivered a presidential address to the nation on public television, in which he described same-sex marriage as an institution contrary to the widely accepted moral order in Poland and the moral beliefs of the majority of the population. The address featured a wedding photograph of an Irish gay rights activist, Brendan Fay and Tom Moulton, which Kaczyński had not sought permission to use. The presidential address outraged left-wing political parties and gay rights activists, who subsequently invited the two to Poland and demanded apologies from the President, which he did not issue.
On 30 August 2006, during a visit to the European Commission, Lech's twin brother, Jarosław Kaczyński, as the Prime Minister of Poland, stated that "people with such preferences have full rights in Poland, there is no tradition in Poland of persecuting such people". He also asked the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso "not to believe in the myth of Poland as an anti-Semitic, homophobic and xenophobic country".
Jarosław Kaczyński has been less harsh in his descriptions of homosexuality. In one interview, he stated that he had always been "in favour of tolerance" and that "the issue of intolerance towards gay people had never been a Polish problem". He said he did not recall gays being persecuted in the Polish People's Republic more severely than other minority groups and acknowledged that many eminent Polish celebrities and public figures of that era were widely known to be homosexual. Jarosław Kaczyński also remarked that there are a lot of gay clubs in Poland and that there is a substantial amount of gay press and literature. In another interview abroad, he invited the interviewer to Warsaw to visit one of the many gay clubs in the capital. He also confirmed that there are some homosexuals in his own party, but said they would rather not open their private lives to the public. This was also confirmed by the Member of the European Parliament from PiS, Tadeusz Cymański.
In a 2009 interview for Gazeta Wyborcza, former Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz stated that his opinion about homosexual people changed when he met a Polish gay emigrant in London. The man stated that he "fled from Poland because he was gay and would not have freedom in his country". Marcinkiewicz concluded that he wouldn't want anyone to flee from Poland. Marcinkiewicz had previously described homosexuality as an "injection" and "unnatural".
In a 2015 interview, President-elect, Andrzej Duda, originally from the PiS party, was asked if he would hire a homosexual. He answered that he would not care about personal relationships, as long as the person who was to be hired was not running around half-naked. Andrzej Duda also stated that "matters that are vital for society are not dealt with while others, undoubtedly connected with the leftist ideology, are being pushed forward. They are, in my view, destroying the traditional family which, since the dawn of mankind, has assured its development and endurance."
League of Polish Families
On 19 May 2006, Mirosław Orzechowski, Deputy Minister of Education, stated that an international project organized by LGBT NGOs and financially supported by the European Commission Youth Programme would lead to the "depravity of young people".
Wojciech Wierzejski was a Member of the European Parliament, and then a Deputy of the Sejm from the League of Polish Families. In June 2005, while in the European Parliament, he called for "no tolerance for homosexuals and deviants".
On 11 May 2006, while an MP, Wierzejski condemned the Warsaw Parada Równości. While condemning the parade, he stated the "deviants" should be "hit with batons". He also commented on the possible presence of German politicians at the parade, saying that "they are not serious politicians, but just gays and a couple of baton strikes will deter them from coming again. Gays are cowards by definition." A day later, he wrote a letter to the Minister of the Interior and Administration and the Minister of Justice, in which he called for law enforcement agencies to check the legal and illegal sources of financing of the organizations of homosexual activists. He accused LGBT organisations of being involved with paedophiles and the illegal drug trade. He also wished to check if homosexual organisations penetrated Polish schools. In response to this, the State Prosecutor ordered all prosecutors to carefully check the financing of LGBT organizations, their alleged connections to criminal movements and their presence in schools. On 2 June 2006, a complaint about Wierzejski's statements had been rejected by the Warsaw district prosecutor, because "the statements cannot be treated as threatening or encouraging to crime".
On 8 June 2006, Roman Giertych, the Deputy Prime Minister of Poland and Minister of Education, dismissed Mirosław Sielatycki, the director of the National In-Service Teacher Training Centre, because "a lot of books were encouraging teachers to organize meetings with LGBT non-governmental organizations such as Campaign Against Homophobia or Lambda" and because "these books were criticising the legal situation in most European countries, including Poland, in relation to non-recognition of gay marriage as being a form of discrimination". The new director of the centre said that "homosexual practices lead to drama, emptiness and degeneracy."
In March 2007 Roman Giertych proposed a bill that would have banned homosexual people from the teaching profession and would also have allowed sacking those teachers who promote "the culture of homosexual lifestyle". At that time, Giertych was the Deputy Prime Minister of Poland and the Minister of Education. The proposition gained a lot of attention in the media and was widely condemned by the European Commission, by Human Rights Watch, as well as by the Union of Polish Teachers, who organized a march through Warsaw (attended by 10,000 people) condemning the Ministry's policy. The bill was not voted on, and the Government soon failed, leading to new parliamentary elections in which the League of Polish Families won no parliamentary seats.
In 2007, PBS conducted an opinion poll associated with Roman Giertych's speech at a meeting of EU education ministers in Heidelberg. The pollster asked respondents if they agreed with Minister Giertych's statements:
- "Homosexual propaganda is growing in Europe, is reaching the younger children and is weakening the family." – 40% agreed, 56% disagreed.
- "Homosexual propaganda needs to be limited, so children will not have an improper perspective on the family." – 56% agreed, 44% disagreed.
- "Homosexuality is a deviation, we cannot promote as a normal relationship one between persons of the same sex in teaching young people, because objectively they are deviations from the natural law." – 44% agreed, 52% disagreed.
In 2013, former President and Nobel prize winner Lech Wałęsa said that gay MPs should sit at the back of the Parliament or even behind a wall and should not have important positions in Parliament. He also said that pride parades should not take place in the city centres, but in the suburbs of cities. The former President also stated that minorities should not impose themselves upon the majority. Wałęsa could not have been accused of inciting to hatred because the Polish Penal Code doesn't include inciting to hatred against sexual orientation.
Your Movement supports LGBT rights, including same-sex marriage and civil unions. A prominent party member is gay activist and former member of the Sejm (2011-2014) Robert Biedroń. Biedroń is currently the Mayor of Słupsk. He has been described as a young, rising political star in Poland, and is viewed as a frontrunner for the presidency. Former President Aleksander Kwasniewski has urged him to run for president in 2020. Opinion polls currently put him in third place, behind Andrzej Duda and Donald Tusk.
Biedroń has spoken of significant societal change towards homosexuality and LGBT people. He had occasionally been publicly beaten on the streets and insulted, but said in 2018 that residents now smile and greet him. As a mayor, Biedroń marries local couples. "I’m extremely jealous because I see their happiness. I’m 15 years with my partner and it’s still a dream. It’s not fair that in 2018 two adults cannot get married if they love each other and are committed to each other.", he said.
LGBT movement and activism
In 2004 and 2005, Warsaw officials denied permission to organize it, because of various reasons including the likelihood of counter-demonstrations, interference with religious or national holidays, and the lack of a permit. Despite this, about 2,500 people marched illegally on 11 June 2005. Ten people were arrested. The ban has been declared illegal by the Bączkowski v Poland ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in 2007.
The Parada Równości events have continued regularly since 2006, attracting crowds of less than 10,000 every year, until 2015 when the parade attracted 18 thousand attendees. Since then, attendance has increased dramatically, culminating in the 2018 parade which attracted 45,000 attendees.
A 2010 opinion poll, conducted by PBS for Gazeta Wyborcza, showed that 45% of Warsaw residents supported the parade.
In recent years, the parade has attracted widespread support from corporations and regional governments. The main partner of the 2018 parade was the regional Government of the Masovian Voivodeship, of which Warsaw is a part.
The Warsaw rainbow (Tęcza) was an artistic construction in the form of a giant rainbow made of artificial flowers, designed by Polish artist Julita Wójcik, located on St. Saviour Square in the Polish capital of Warsaw since summer 2012.
As the rainbow symbol is also associated with the LGBT movement, locating the Tęcza in the St. Savior Square in Warsaw has proved controversial. It has been damaged five times as of November 2013, with the usual method of vandalism being arson. The installation was damaged on 13 September 2012, 1 January 2013 (this one was ruled to be an accidental fireworks damage), 4 January 2013, July 2013 and once again during marches on Polish Independence Day on 11 November 2013. The November 2013 incident occurred in the background of a wider demonstration by right-wing activists, who clashed with police and vandalized other parts of the city as well, also attacking Warsaw's Russian embassy.
The installation was criticized by conservative and right-wing figures. Law and Justice politician Bartosz Kownacki derogatorily called the installation a "faggot rainbow" (pedalska tęcza). Another Law and Justice politician, Stanisław Pięta, complained that this "hideous rainbow had hurt the feelings of believers" (attending the nearby Church of the Holiest Saviour). Priest Tadeusz Rydzyk of Radio Maryja fame, described it as a "symbol of deviancy".
Following the November 2013 incident, reconstruction of the Tęcza has garnered support from left-wing and liberal groups. Mayor of Warsaw Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz from the Civic Platform declared that the installation "will be rebuilt as many times as necessary". Several Polish celebrity figures had endorsed the installation, including Edyta Górniak, Katarzyna Zielińska, Monika Olejnik and Michał Piróg; it had also been endorsed by the Swedish Ambassador to Poland and LGBT activist Staffan Herrström.
In a 2014 survey, conducted by CBOS for Dr. Natalia Zimniewicz, 30% of Poles wanted a ban on public promotion of gay content, and 17.3% would not support that ban, but would want another form of limiting the freedom of promotion of such information.
52.5% thought that the current scale of promotion of gay content is excessive, 27.9% thought that pictures of gay parades or practices disgust them, 22.3% thought that the media blur the true image of homosexuality and 29.3% thought that gay content is not a private matter of the homosexual community, but affect children and other citizens.
|Same-sex sexual activity|
|Same-sex sexual activity legal||Always legal, confirmed in 1932|
|Equal age of consent (15)|
|Anti-discrimination laws in employment||Since 2003|
|Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services||Since 2018|
|Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech)|
|Anti-discrimination laws concerning gender identity|
|Hate crime laws concerning sexual orientation and gender identity||Pending|
|Same-sex marriages||Constitutionally banned since 1997; same-sex marriages performed in the EU recognised for residency purposes since 2018|
|Recognition of same-sex couples||Some limited cohabitation rights|
|Adoption and parenting|
|Adoption by individuals|
|Stepchild adoption by same-sex couples|
|Joint adoption by same-sex couples|
|Commercial surrogacy for gay male couples||Banned regardless of sexual orientation|
|Access to IVF for lesbians||Available only for women in heterosexual relationships|
|Lesbians, gays and bisexuals allowed to serve openly in the military|
|Right to change legal gender|
|MSMs allowed to donate blood||Since 2005|
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Tatchell, Peter. (1992). Europe in the pink: lesbian & gay equality in the new Europe. GMP. ISBN 978-0-85449-158-2
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to LGBT in Poland.|
- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights in Poland and Latvia, Amnesty International, 15 November 2006
- Situation of bisexual and homosexual persons in Poland. 2005 and 2006 report. – Campaign Against Homophobia, ISBN 978-83-924950-2-4, Warsaw 2007