More Than 80 Polish Towns Have Declared Themselves ‘LGBTQ-Free Zones’

The European Parliament has finally taken a stand against rising state-backed homophobia in Poland, where more than 80 towns have declared themselves “LGBTQ-free zones” amid a heated culture war over gay rights.

MEPs voted by 463 votes to 107 Wednesday in favor of a resolution condemning discrimination against LGBTQ people in Poland, and explicitly calling on the Polish government to revoke discriminatory measures such as the “LGBTQ-free zones,” established by dozens of conservative local authorities that have symbolically declared themselves free from “LGBTQ ideology.”

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Gay rights have become a hot-button issue in Poland this year since the ruling right-wing populist Law and Justice made its opposition to “LGBTQ ideology” a central platform of its campaigns for national and European elections. The party’s anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, echoed by Catholic hardliners, nationalist groups and state-run media, has painted gay rights as a dangerous, alien ideology — imported from the decadent, liberal West — that threatens the traditional, Catholic family unit.

Law and Justice chairman Jarosław Kaczyński, Poland’s de facto leader, warned in April of an “imported” LGBTQ movement that “threatens our identity, our nation… and therefore the Polish state.” In October’s elections, his party was returned to power comfortably with 44 percent of the vote.