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Polish Court Rebukes “LGBT-Free Zone” Stickers

Discriminatory Campaign Highlights Rising Political Homophobia

The conservative Polish Gazeta Polska magazine is including "LGBT-free zone" stickers inside its weekly edition amid rising tensions between LGBT activists and a conservative Christian movement supported by the country's right-wing ruling party. © 2019 Jaap Arriens/Sipa USA via AP Images

A court in Poland has ruled that a newspaper must stop including hateful “LGBT-Free Zone” stickers in its publications. The Warsaw District Court ordered Gazeta Polska, a government-aligned newspaper, to halt distribution of the stickers immediately, pending the outcome of a rights activist’s case.

The judgment is a welcome relief in the face of increasingly hostile rhetoric in Poland as a spate of “LGBT Free Zones” have been marked in towns across the country. In response, Twitter erupted with the trending hashtag #jestemLGBT (#IamLGBT), showing an outpouring of popular opposition to these vicious tactics.

Much of the vitriol in recent months has been driven by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party, which has a history of scapegoating lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people, and sexual and reproductive health activists, under the rubric of “gender ideology.” Senior party members have misrepresented efforts to advance gender equality and end discrimination as attacks on “traditional” family values, and used such arguments to undermine women’s and LGBT rights groups

Rather than defending equality for everyone in the country, the government has used state resources to promote an agenda that undermines it. For example, to advise it on recent sex education curriculum changes, the government appointed a Catholic theology professor who has claimed that contraception can cause “hedonism, sex addiction and a tendency to be unfaithful.” New curriculum guidelines reinforce discriminatory attitudes against LGBT people and gender stereotypes.

Despite the government’s efforts to curb judicial independence, courts in Poland have been an important backstop against insidious “LGBT ideology” claims. In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that an employee of a print shop could not refuse to print a banner for an LGBT organization because he did not want, in his eyes, to “promote” the rights of LGBT people.

But state action is needed to counter incitements to discrimination. Gazeta Polksa isn’t backing down. In fact they already revised the now-banned “LGBT-Free Zone” decal to read “LGBT Ideology-Free Zone” and continue to distribute the new version.

It seems those who wish to gratuitously discriminate against LGBT people for their own political gain are not giving up. Polish authorities have an obligation under the country’s constitution, human rights law, and EU law to ensure equality for everyone in society. If they fail to do so, European Union institutions should act.

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