Polish Gays Protest Cancellation Of March Kaczynski has denied being homophobic but has made various comments that have irked the gay community and liberal media. Javno.hr, Croatia 10/24/08
A gay rights group on Friday accused the city council in Poland's ancient capital Krakow of pandering to homophobia after it banned a gay event that would coincide with a visit by Poland's conservative president. The Polish branch of the International Lesbian and Gay Culture Network had wanted to stage a gathering and a march on Oct. 31 to celebrate the birthday of a reputedly homosexual Polish king of the 15th century, Wladyslaw Warnenczyk.
But the city authorities feared this would upset President Lech Kaczynski, due in Krakow that day for celebrations marking the 90th anniversary of Poland regaining its independence.
"We received an official document from the municipality saying our event has not been approved because of Lech Kaczynski's visit," said Lukasz Palucki of the gay organisation.
"I had thought it not possible to forbid demonstrations in modern Poland but it seems it is... We are sad but calm. We have had past experiences and tussles with the president on such issues," he told Reuters.
When he was mayor of Warsaw, the staunchly Roman Catholic Kaczynski banned gay pride marches in the capital, drawing condemnation from the European Court of Human Rights.
"Today the world considers us (Poles) to be homophobic while history shows we were the only country in the Middle Ages where homosexuality was not punishable by death," Palucki was quoted as saying by the Gazeta Wyborcza daily on Friday.
Kaczynski has denied being homophobic but has made various comments that have irked the gay community and liberal media.
Tadeusz Czarny, administrative director at Krakow city council, denied that the gay group had been refused permission to stage its event because it was gay and said permission for other events on that day had also been refused.
But he added: "I suppose the president would not have been happy to discover the patriotic event he is due to attend was taking place at the same time as the gay event."
Wladyslaw reigned from 1434 until his death at the hands of the Ottoman Turks in the Battle of Varna in Bulgaria in 1444. His alleged homosexuality stems from a contemporary chronicler, but some historians say he may not really have been gay at all.
PiS Worried Over Gay MarriagesThe Warsaw Voice 17 December 2008
Deputies from the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party want the Polish parliament to protest against what they call an attempt by the European Parliament to regulate issues of public morality and family law. The deputies are specifically worried over a draft resolution adopted by the European Parliament's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee. Under the draft, EU countries would have to mutually recognize same-sex marriages and registered homosexual partnerships.
PiS argues that the draft "goes beyond the powers that Poland and other EU countries have granted to the European Union." PiS says that marriage "as a relationship between a man and woman" and the family are protected by the state in Poland under the constitution.
The PiS parliamentary group wants the Polish parliament to adopt a resolution calling on the EU "to stop this legislative work, which is designed to lead to the recognition of same-sex couples in all EU countries and give them the same rights as those enjoyed by heterosexual families."
According to PiS deputies, if the EU member states adopted the provisions proposed by the European Parliament committee, this would lead to legalizing homosexual marriages across the EU, including Poland, even though the Polish parliament is opposed to such a move.
The Czechs who head the Union in this year have organized a campaign against stereotypes and prejudice in Brussels. Each country`s artist gave an idea and the Czech s implemented them all. Most are very controvercial and diplomatic protests have already started. E.g., Poland is symbolised by figures of priests holding a gay flag, an imitation of the famous scene from Ivo Jima.
There is an artist`s description attached
Stand by your faith Journalistic photographs capturing American soldiers raising a flag on the island of Iwo Jima in 1945. Instead of soldiers, the figures of Catholic priests faithfully copy the positions of the men in the photograph. A rainbow flag where all the colours of the spectrum coexist side by side. A surreal vision of the interconnection of that which cannot be interconnected.
Oops, it seems the Czechs have duped all of us. None country has actually sent its artist to participate in the art enterprise. It has been revealed today that the construction presenting some countries` stereotyped visions was construed by a single man, a Czech artist. He says he knew the sham would be revealed one day but wanted to check if Europe is able to laugh at its stereotypes.
Czech mistification. It seems that Poland was the most clever idea in it. The rest are simply boring.
Homophobia challenges the CEE region According to a new report, the eastern half the EU is less tolerant towards homosexuals
The Warsaw Business Journal 6th April 2009
Homophobia is causing harm, both physical and professional, throughout Europe, according to a report by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA). The problem may also be worse than reports suggest, because some victims may not speak out.
The report noted that events in EU member states in recent years, such as "the banning of pride marches, hate speech from politicians and intolerant statements by religious leaders," are worrying signs.
According to the FRA research, countries in Central and Eastern Europe are generally less tolerant towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and transgender (LBGT) community. EU citizens in CEE countries are less likely to be comfortable living next door to an LGBT person and Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Poland and Romania were specifically noted as being hostile towards gay pride parades.
Only Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain give full marriage rights to LGBT people. Fourteen member states � including Poland, Bulgaria and the Baltic states � do not grant any partnership rights to LGBT persons.
Regarding same-sex marriage, Romania and Latvia are the least keen on the idea, with only 11 and 12 percent of surveyed people were in favor, respectively. Meanwhile, Poland and Malta (both seven percent) are the most negative on the issue of child adoption by homosexual couples. The Netherlands and Sweden are the most in favor on both issues.
Thirteen member states � including Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Hungary � have not outlawed the inciting of hatred, violence or discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
The FRA study noted that homophobia was a professional worry as well. It quoted Poland-specific research which said that LGBT persons were "fearful of being victimised, and filing a complaint against an employer is perceived as lowering the chances of finding new employment."
In conclusion, the report stated that, "Discrimination and homophobia disadvantage LGBT persons in all areas of social life."
......................................................................... Polish gay movement gains momentum Lyndon Barnett Sydney Star Observer Tuesday, 7 April 2009
After losing his job because of discrimination, Warsaw-born Szymon Niemiec, 31, was inspired to become a gay activist. He became an organiser of Poland's first Pride parade after watching Sydney's 2001 Mardi Gras on television.
"While at a gay bar with friends watching Sydney's parade we asked ourselves, `Why not?' From this moment Equality Parade was born," Szymon said.
"Our group, ILGCN Poland, had always one goal: to build acceptance in Poland for LGBT people by culture, help and support. From the beginning we used art and culture to make Polish gays visible and proud of their achievements. "
Szymon believes the greatest obstacle to acceptance is the Polish mentality. "The biggest problem with tolerance is Polish fear. Our position between Russia and Germany led us to be a society that was always under, or in danger of, occupation," he said.
"This trauma lives in our mentality today and nationalists use it to `defend' Polish fears about losing independence. Hopefully this is a problem of the previous generation. Young people are more Western, because they don't remember communist times."
By 2004 the parade had gathered momentum, bringing the wrath of Warsaw's mayor, Lech Kaczynski, who banned the parades in 2004 and 2005. Kaczynski said he is, "for tolerance, but am against propagating gay orientation. "
Szymon believes the reason was political. "There was only one reason for that — the coming elections. His political party decided to use `gay fear' in the same way as the Communist Party used `Jew fear' in 1968 to take power," he said.
Due to illness, Szymon retired from activism in 2005. His successors created an activist movement, the Equality Foundation, encompassing several organisations.
The Foundation successfully challenged the parade bans in the European Parliament, paving the way for a new mayor to approve subsequent parades.
"There was no legal option for another ban. In 2006 persons from all around the world showed up to march in solidarity with LGBT and human rights. This tremendous outpouring of support from Western society validated that the Polish gay community is not left alone."
However, any momentum created by the movement is being threatened not by conservatives, but from within activist circles.
The Polish government recently took Equality Foundation office-bearers to court amid allegations of falsifying court documents and failing to file financial reports from 2005 to 2007.
Jacek Adler, editor of gaylife.pl, is currently defending his website against accusations of defamation. Szymon hopes the situation will be resolved by Euro Pride 2010, which Warsaw is hosting.
"Euro Pride is a huge possibility and hope for all of us. Not only because it can be the biggest gay event in Polish history, but also because Euro Pride can show our financial power to the Polish government and society. We are able to show the power of `pink money,' the only power that has any ability to influence public policy," he said.
"I can only hope that people who will be in charge of this event will not forget about the core values of the Equality Parade that I created in 2001: equality for all citizens of Poland and the world."
The Couple From Queens vs. the President of Poland By JAKE MOONEY The New York Times April 16, 2009
ON July 27, 2003, about six weeks after a court in Ontario legalized same-sex marriage in the province, Dr. Thomas Moulton and Brendan Fay were married outside St. Lawrence Hall in Toronto. A few minutes later, they were talking with Judge Harvey Brownstone, who had officiated. It was a busy day — the couple had flown in from New York, where they live — but something Judge Brownstone said still sticks in Mr. Fay's mind. graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2009/04/19/nyregion/19disp.190.jpg Brendan Fay, left, and Thomas Moulton on their wedding day.
"He said, `Wherever you go, anywhere in the world, you are still a legally married couple,' " Mr. Fay recalled one morning last week, sitting at his kitchen table in Astoria, Queens. " `Whatever the recognition, you are as married as anyone who has been married in Canada.' "
It was a nice sentiment and, legally speaking, accurate. But it would be tested, bizarrely, in a multinational controversy that started five years later, on March 17, 2008. On that day, Mr. Fay, a filmmaker who grew up in Ireland, was focused on the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York, which he has lobbied to allow gay and lesbian marchers. Dr. Moulton, a pediatric oncologist and hematologist, was at work at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx.
And in Poland, that country's president, Lech Kaczynski, was delivering a nationally televised speech that touched, in part, on the perils of the European Union. One peril, he charged, was that Poland could be forced to accept same-sex marriage. The visual aid chosen to accompany this claim — no one has said how or why — was a picture of Dr. Moulton and Mr. Fay's marriage certificate, and a three-second clip of the couple at their wedding.
The next day, Mr. Fay was at home when his phone rang. A Polish radio reporter who had read his name on the marriage certificate was seeking comment. Mr. Fay thinks that he said something like, "You must be joking!"
So began a strange year, in which Mr. Fay and Dr. Moulton found themselves discussing their Canadian wedding and their New York lives in the Polish news media. Two weeks after the broadcast, a Polish television station flew them to Warsaw, where they spent three days as a tabloid fixation. They have even kept up contact — albeit of a strained and intermittent nature — with Mr. Kaczynski's administration.
Now the couple, who are leaving on a trip to Ireland this weekend, say that a return to Poland, and maybe even a meeting with Mr. Kaczynski or an underling, may be in the cards while they are in Europe. The meeting, at least, does not look especially likely: A presidential aide was quoted last year referring to the Toronto ceremony as a "quasi-wedding. " The only letter from Mr. Kaczynski's government to the couple, in February, stopped just short of an official invitation to visit, though it did recommend Warsaw's Beethoven festival, which ended April 10.
Regardless, Mr. Fay said the other day over a cup of tea, the couple's improbable Polish celebrity has been a learning experience all around. He and Dr. Moulton have met gay rights activists with whom they have stayed in touch. They have learned a few phrases of the language.
"I could not believe the number of people that reached out to us from Poland," he added, people who said things like, `We disagree with our president; we're sorry about what our president said about you.' "
Those sentiments, in the overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country, have only occasionally been accompanied by endorsements of same-sex marriage, Mr. Fay acknowledged. But, he added, devout Poles may have more in common with him and Dr. Moulton than they think.
The couple first met, years ago, at a Catholic Mass at a church in Greenwich Village. Mr. Fay has bachelor's and master's degrees in theology. During their visit to Warsaw, they went to church. If their image was chosen by Mr. Kaczynski to represent godless decadence, something may have gone awry.
Among people who know them, Mr. Fay said, "everybody said he picked the wrong couple. Or said: `It's divine providence. He couldn't have picked a better couple.' "
The marriage certificate sits these days on an end table in the couple's living room, between a bronze Celtic cross — a wedding gift — and a megaphone. Most couples do not display their marriage certificates, Mr. Fay said; none of his five sisters do.
But in a week when Governor Paterson unveiled a same-sex marriage bill, in the face of doubt about its chances in the State Senate, Mr. Fay said the decoration is significant. He did, after all, have to fly to Canada to get married in the first place.
The sixth Culture for Tolerance Festival takes place in April
The big pink posters made it hard to miss Krakow's sixth Culture for Tolerance Festival, which took place April 16-19. Same-sex pairs of iconic Greek sculptures had been Photoshopped into compromising positions, then placed into bright yellow hearts. Queer culture had hit town, and it was here to party to this year's theme: "Art for Pleasure."
Since 2003, the festival has been the annual centrepiece of Krakow's Culture for Tolerance Foundation, which seeks not only to increase tolerance of LGBTQ people but also to promote "all [their] artistic and intellectual endeavours," according to their website. However, 2009 marked the first year that the artistic and human rights components of the festival were separated. Those looking forward to the traditional March for Tolerance will have to wait until "Queerowy Maj" ("Queer May"), a separate festival set for May 15-17, and organised by Kraków's branch of the Campaign Against Homophobia, founded in Warsaw in 2001 and now the biggest NGO of its kind in Poland.
Why the split? "Growth," according to Samuel Nowak, project manager of the festival and president of the foundation's board. "For the past two years, the artistic content of the festival has risen," he said over the buzzing, brightly coloured crowd at the festival's opening last month. "This is for more `advanced' participants. They don't have to be explained what is queer - they're here for the top gay art."
"Top gay art" indeed. The opening, at Galeria Pauza, saw the unveiling of Russian-born Slava Mogutin's photographic series "Lost Boys," which Nowak called a "dream project" for the festival. Mogutin gained political asylum in the United States in 1995 after suffering persecution in his home country for his queer art and writing, but "Lost Boys," his first show in Poland and in Europe outside of Russia, transcended his story. "It's such a cliché to portray Russia as a totally grim and f'ed-up place, so I really wanted to show a different side of my country," he wrote in his artist's statement on display. "One that is colourful, exciting, sexy, and full of raw, crazy energy."
His words could stand for this year's festival as a whole - the tight focus on art made for what Nowak described as a unique, "positive affirmation" of Polish, but also international, queer culture. Other events included Polish artist Laura Pawela's opening of "Terrorismo Lesbico," a series of photographs she took in Argentina especially for the festival, and seven "Queer Cafes," or informal discussions with art historians like Richard Dyer of King's College, London. Film took centre stage at the festival this year, ranging from a "Queering Wajda" series to the American lesbian cult classic "But I'm a Cheerleader! " Trans issues were also explored at a free screening of Agnieszka Holland's A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story, about a teenage hate crime victim in California.
Another important component of the festival was purely social, and anchored by nightly parties and concerts all over the city. The majority of the festival's events were free and, like the foundation's publicity and press materials, translated into English. By all indications, "Art for Pleasure" was a hit - the foundation stated that 3,000 people attended the four days' events. "It's changing the city for a few days," Nowak said. "You really feel you're in a European city." As for the crowds, they proved that "there is a space for this."
However "advanced" the festival's clientele, the meaning of the word "queer" was still a topic of debate at its events. Travis Jeppesen, an American artist, poet, and critic based in Berlin and Prague, offered a definition at his talk "Queer Art in Central Europe": "'Queer' is about the rejection of a code - any code." While this is not an easy task in Poland, perhaps this year's festival signals that "top gay art" is a way in for the Tolerance Movement. As of April 21st, there was no known counter-festival activity - a first.
This month, "Queerowy Maj" takes place May 15-17, and the March for Tolerance will start at Plac Wolnica on Saturday the 16th. Other planned events include "debates, movies, workshops, and nightly parties," according to Sowa from the Campaign Against Homophobia. "We will do our best to provide translation for English speakers at each of them." When asked about the prospect of violence and/or protest, Sowa assured that the Campaign "always strives to provide maximum safety."
For the second year in a row, the annual Tolerance March makes it to the Market Square
A little before 3 pm on Saturday, a thundering drumline preceded the entrance of perhaps the year's most colourful procession onto the Market Square: the annual March for Tolerance.
An hour before that, a slight woman by the name of Aleksandra Sowa shouted "Hello my dears!" to begin the March. "Welcome to the March for Tolerance," continued the Queer May committee member, "which for the first time will start from Plac Wolnica. We have extended the route, so that our 'deviants and obscene behaviour' can have more space, not only in the bushes of the Planty but on the streets of Krakow," she joked.
Despite the lack of sunshine and air heavy with the threat of rain, the group Sawa was addressing was comprised of smiling faces, energised and ready to parade. Though most of the marchers were young Cracovians, there were some notable faces in the crowd, including SLD vice-president and Sejm member Joanna Senyszyn. Rainbow flags criss-crossed Polish flags, and colourful signs bore slogans like, "Two fathers are better than one," "Homophobia can be treated," and "Love knows no gender."
Starting at Plac Wolnica in Kazimierz, the march made its way down Krakowska Street, passing by curious onlookers, most with cameras in hand, and even stopping a city bus for a few minutes. The procession then continued down Grodzka Street, turning the Royal Way temporality into the Tolerance Way, before finally arriving at their destination, the south side of the Market Square.
But like in previous years, the march was hardly met with open arms. Instead, two different counterdemonstratio ns, comprised mostly of angry young people holding signs with slogans such as "gayness prohibited," threw chairs, eggs, potted plants and whatever else was handy at the marchers, before being restrained by police.
The so-called "March of Normality" began on the Market Square at 1 pm, organised by Narodowe Odrodzenie Polski (National Rebirth of Poland), a radical nationalist party. The marchers were joined by the All-Polish Youth, another far-right nationalist group. Members burned an EU flag under the statue of Adam Mickiewicz while shouting obscenities at the approaching marchers.
All three of Saturday's manifestations were perfectly legal, as the organisers had filed all of the correct forms in order to march. Nonetheless, the nature of the counterdemonstrator s required a full police force, complete with riot gear and gas canisters, to form a human shield around the tolerance marchers throughout the procession. Though this did not stop the occasional egg from hitting some marchers, it did prevent full-out violence between the two groups. Of the counterdemonstrator s, police arrested 15 people for attempting to block a legal demonstration, but the tolerance marchers were allowed to peacefully disperse.
You may have read my post on another forum where I revealed that I was present at my gay brothers wedding. I wish to explain my thoughts on the subject if you would so humor me.
It is my opinion that my Marriage consists of two very different components.
1. A covenant with God. 2. A contract (Civil) with the state.
When my brother asked me to be present at his"wedding" I asked only one question "Will the ceremony be of a religious nature?" He replied that It would not be. I said "I will be there."
His reason for entering into Civil Union was simple enough. He has amassed a comfortable retirement and does not wish for it to be given to the state through taxation or given back to the CEO of his company after his eventual death.
He understands that the Church will never condone his Union. He would never ask them to. Both he and I agree that he has a Civil Union with another man, He does not have a Marriage. Marriage is a covenant with God. A Civil Union is a contract with the government.
In 10 years the emotions will subside.... Poland is experiencing the stage which was in the West a few dozen years ago: gays are coming out of hiding and conservative circles don`t like it.
thecastro.net/parade/parade/parade.html Miami fell three weeks before the 1977 Gay Parade, triggering much anti-gay violence. A gardener, Robert Hillsborough, an employee of the City was viciously murdered by f*g-bashers a few days before the parade. Fortunately, the 4 murderers were apprehended immediately. The gay community blamed Bryant for the murder which stimulated an enormous wave of anger and determination. More than 300,000 people turned out for the 1977 Gay Parade which was really a massive Civil Rights March. Suits and ties were seen throughout the parade.
You may have read my post on another forum where I revealed that I was present at my gay brothers wedding. I wish to explain my thoughts on the subject if you would so humor me. It is my opinion that my Marriage consists of two very different components. 1. A covenant with God. 2. A contract (Civil) with the state. Is my logic flawed on this matter?
Yes, logic is a good word here. You coped with this problem in a rational way with a big dose of balanced tolerance.
Local gay hostels forced underground Anna Fratczak The Krakow Post 22nd July 2007
Though they face persecution if they were to "come out," gay hostels exist and are quite popular in Krakow
A hostel in the centre of Krakow. Five cheerful rooms and one apartment called a studio. No billboard, no adverts in any tourist guides or magazines. A place known only to insiders.
"If we lived, for example, in Germany, there would be a great big colourful billboard - but we live in Poland. 'Gay hostel' sounds like sensationalism, " says Radek Oliwa, one of the owners of the 2nd Floor Hostel, and author of one of the first and biggest Polish gay/lesbian portals: .............................................................
For two years, he and his partner have owned a cosy hostel in the centre of Krakow. For two years, they have kept the place a secret.
There are no billboards; they have no adverts in tourist guides or magazines. Even talking to me, he would not agree to reveal the address.
"It is better, safer to stay underground, " Oliwa says. "We are afraid of unpleasant graffiti on the walls, or more aggressive attacks. Everybody likes peace, quiet and discretion."
Underground seems to be the only lifestyle allowed for gay society, not only in Krakow, but in the entire country. The reason is obvious.
The owner of another gay Krakow hostel stated it openly: "We live in an intolerant, Catholic country, whose government publicly supports homophobia. It is common knowledge all across Europe." Upset, the owner ended our call.
Despite this situation, Krakow has two exclusively gay hostels - both in the centre - and one gay-friendly place on Kazimierz. The lack of billboards doesn't preclude hostel owners attracting their preferred visitors. They advertise their accommodations on Polish and international gay web sites.
"In the beginning, we were afraid that we wouldn't find many visitors. We expected only foreign guests, who are accustomed to places like this. It quickly turned out that gay hostels are very much in demand in Poland. Our place became very popular among Polish people. Two men sharing one room causes a bit of sensation in Polish hotels. Here homosexual couples can relax and feel comfortable, " Oliwa says.
Although all of the neighbours know that the 2nd Floor is a gay hostel, neither the visitors nor owners have ever heard any unpleasant comments from them.
"They are nice. It is typical Polish tolerance. When something exists in a small group, it is accepted," Radek says.
The guests are mostly content with visiting Krakow and 2nd Floor. A lot of them come back.
"I'm here for the third time! It's a lovely place - private, domestic atmosphere. The hosts are very young, and their English is great. I'm from Scotland. I work in London. I'd like to live in this place," said Jack, a frequent guest at the hostel.
The hostellers take good care of their visitors, giving them information about pubs, clubs, parties and places to visit, and telling them about the town.
"Sometimes we go out with our guests," says Radek, who confides that he regrets that there are still too few gay places in Krakow. "It is a pity City Hall doesn't want to finance a gay festival in Krakow. Everybody could earn on it. Gays are the profitable tourists. They travel a lot; they have no children, which means they have more free time and more money to spend."
--------------------------------------------------------------- Former Polish Prime Minister parties in gay club News at Poland.com 2009-05-19
Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz and Isabel Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz who was known as an opponent of gays, spent a whole night in "Utopia" club in Warsaw. The club, which Marcinkiewicz visited with his young lover, Isabel, on Saturday, is known as a famous gay club. The pair left the club in the morning and went to Marcinkiewicz' s house by taxi. "This situation shows that Marcinkiewicz has never been an esteemed politician, but only apopulist" –said Robert Biedron for well known tabloid "Super Express". "I am not surprised that Marcinkiewicz had a great fun in this type of club. He thought that gays and lesbians were bad. Today, I think that he must have changed his mind" – added the chair of "Campaign against Homophobia".
British ambassador to Poland under fire for promoting gay rights Daily Mail Foreign Service 11th June 2009 The British ambassador to Poland has sparked a diplomatic incident after promoting a controversial gay pride march due to take place in Warsaw on Saturday. Ric Todd has been told by the country's civil rights ombudsman that he has 'exceeded his authority' and Roman Catholic groups have accused the ambassador of representing the 'homosexual lobby'. The problem arose after Mr Todd, who has been our man in Warsaw for almost two years, gave gay rights leaders a UK Guide To Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual And Transgender People And Their Rights, translated into Polish, earlier this week. It was adapted from the so-called Transgender Toolkit, a political correctness manual for civil servants that the Foreign Office funds with taxpayers' money. It came ahead of the gay pride march scheduled for this weekend. But the move has provoked a storm of protest. 'Ambassador Todd has exceeded his authority,' Janusz Kochanowski, the Polish civil rights ombudsman, told The Daily Mail. 'He is being improper and doesn't understand the role of a diplomat. He represents the UK, he is not meant to intervene here in the way that he chooses. ' Mr Kochanowski added that Polish homosexuals do not live in fear of discrimination as the British ambassador seemed to be implying. Slawomir Skiba, editor of Christian Polonia, a Catholic newspaper, agreed: 'The ambassador has demonstrated an extreme lack of diplomacy and absolute ignorance of the values by which the vast majority of our society lives.' He added that Mr Todd should confine himself to represent the interests of Britain, not the ' homosexual lobby'. Poland is arguably Europe's most traditional country and is strongly influenced by the Catholic church. Family values are largely intact, and the country has relatively low rates of abortion, divorce and underage pregnancy. A previous gay pride march was banned by president Lech Kaczynski while he was serving as the mayor of Warsaw. It is not the first time Mr Todd, who has a wife and three children, has found himself criticised for his stance on gay rights. Last year, he hoisted a 'rainbow flag' - a symbol of gay rights - next to the Union Flag in front of the British embassy, causing some British expatriates in Warsaw to dub him 'Rainbow Ric'. A spokesman for the Foreign Office said the ministry 'does have a policy of promoting LGBT ( lesbian gay bisexual transgender) rights' abroad.' Asked whether he would raise the rainbow flag at the British embassies in Iran or Saudi Arabia, Mr Todd said: 'I have made a judgment-about what I should do in Poland, and in my opinion this is the appropriate thing to do in this country. 'I am not interfering in Polish politics or society nor am I criticising it. Foreign Office policy is clearly spelt out and I am acting in accordance with policy. 'We have achieved a lot of good things around the world on the subject of LGBT rights. 'None of this is any suggestion by me or the Foreign Office that the Polish policy on LGBT rights is wrong. 'After all the pride organisers met with me and that shows that Poland is a tolerant society.'
Did all of you who live near Warsaw, go to the parade today? Was there a large turnout? Did they have any fights? What do you think of this? They also had the same parade in Rome, and another place in Europe, today. Mike
Polish gays march as society opens to them slowly 2009-06-12
WARSAW, Poland (AP) - Poland's gay rights community is gearing up for a weekend pride parade in Warsaw, an event that authorities in past years tried to ban and right-wing protesters vented their fury against with eggs and rocks. With fewer conservative officials in place at both the city and national level, Saturday's planned march through the Polish capital comes amid growing openness. The city of Warsaw is even offering free and anonymous HIV testing the day of the parade. But activists say the country still has far to go in accepting its gay community. Grzegorz Czarnecki, who monitors discrimination for the Campaign Against Homophobia, said homosexuals are still afraid to walk the streets holding hands, to go to police if attacked or to come out to family and colleagues. He and others hope the parade will help their efforts to convince this deeply Roman Catholic country that gays and lesbians deserve the right to live openly without being threatened or taunted with slurs. They know gay marriage would be a lost cause, but want legal recognition of their partnerships. «This is democracy and everyone must have the right to be in the public space,» Czarnecki said. Homosexuality was a taboo topic under communism, and in the 20 years since its collapse gay and lesbian activists have struggled against a deeply held perception _ encouraged by the church _ that their behavior is unnatural and immoral. The issue received a lot of attention in 2005, when then-Warsaw Mayor Lech Kaczynski, now the president, denied permission to a gay-rights parade in Warsaw. Some 2,000 activists marched through Warsaw despite the ban and were attacked by right-wing counter-protesters with eggs and stones.
Similar bans and attacks on homosexuals also occurred in Krakow and Poznan. From 2005-2007, Poland also had a right-wing government whose members expressed themselves openly against homosexuality. A former prime minister, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, said in 2005 that he believed homosexuality is «unnatural» and that the state should intervene if homosexuals try to «infect» others with their behavior.
Such language and the bans sparked condemnation by the Council of Europe, a human rights group, and the European Union. Politicians from neighboring countries, such as Germany, traveled to Poland to support gay-rights events. But in the intervening years, homosexuals have faced less overt discrimination. A turning point was 2007, when Prime Minister Donald Tusk's Civic Platform came to office _ a pro-market party that has not focused on gay issues one way or the other. «Gays are not public enemies any more,» said Pawel Kubara, an editor of a yearly publication geared to gay men. «There's homophobia in Civic Platform for sure, but at least there's an awareness that it's something that one shouldn't express because it's not politically correct. But others fault Tusk's government for failing to actively combat homophobia.
************ ********* ********* ********* ** Gays march for equal rights in Poland 2009-06-13
WARSAW, Poland (AP) - Hundreds of gay and lesbian activists have marched through the capital of heavily Roman Catholic Poland calling for legal unions between same-sex couples. Police say some 1,500 demonstrators wound their way along Warsaw's main Marszalkowska street under escort Saturday. They say that several dozen right-wing youths shouting anti-gay invectives confronted the parade near the Parliament building, but there were no confrontations. Some previous demonstrations by gays were marked by violence. Homosexuals were a taboo theme in Poland under communism. Since the 1990 democratic changes, gays have been campaigning for equal rights, but marriage in Poland is only legal between a man and a woman.
Poland Gets 1st Openly Gay Rabbi Tuesday, June 23, 2009 WARSAW, Poland — When Rabbi Aaron Katz walks the streets of Warsaw's former Jewish quarter, scenes of that lost world fill his imagination: Families headed to synagogue, women in their kitchens cooking Sabbath meals, his father as a boy with the sidecurls of an Orthodox Jew. But Katz's life could hardly be more different from that prewar eastern European culture, at least in one key respect: He is Poland's first openly gay rabbi. Born in Argentina 53 years ago to parents who fled Poland before the Holocaust, Katz is the latest rabbi to play his part in reviving a once vibrant Jewish community that was all but wiped out by Hitler.
He settled into Warsaw's historic Jewish district in March with Kevin Gleason, a former Hollywood producer on such reality TV shows as "The Bachelor" and "Nanny 911," with whom he entered into a registered domestic partnership in Los Angeles two years ago.
They live only three streets from the birth home of Katz's father in a modern and spacious apartment with their dogs, two gentle brown boxers. Katz says he is moved by the links to his past, but keeps his focus on the future. "I don't think we will come back to this great Jewish life," he said, referring to prewar Poland, a country where one person in 10 was Jewish and where synagogues, yeshivas and shtetls defined the landscape. "But I hope we will have a normal Jewish life in Poland."
Katz is certainly an anomaly in conservative Poland, where to be either Jewish or gay is challenge enough — at least outside the cities. Of a population of 38 million, about 5,000 are registered as Jews, while thousands more have part-Jewish ancestry, and some have returned to their roots since Poland shed its communist dictatorship. Katz is the second rabbi to serve Beit Warszawa, a Reform community with 250 members that was founded in the capital 10 years ago by Polish and American Jews who felt little affinity with some Orthodox practices, such as separating men and women during Sabbath services. The Reform movement ordains gay rabbis.
Homosexuals have won acceptance at differing levels throughout post-communist Eastern Europe. The Czech Republic and Slovenia recognize same-sex partnerships, as will Hungary from July 1. Poland hasn't gone that far. It has an active gay rights movement and gay nightclubs in the cities, but the Catholic church and some conservative politicians still publicly describe homosexuality as abnormal and immoral. Katz, a citizen of Argentina, Israel and Sweden, says so far he has not faced anti-Semitism or homophobia in Poland. But some community members, speaking in private, reveal a degree of discomfort. One woman at a Sabbath service whispered that she found Katz's open sexuality too "aggressive. " A longtime male member counseled against writing about the rabbi, lest anti-Semites use it against the community. A third member, Piotr Lukasz, said he himself supports gay rights, and marched with an Israeli flag during a recent gay rights parade in Warsaw. But he said he had heard others complain that it would weaken an already small and fragile community.
"They say that Poland is not a ready for a gay rabbi because the outside society is very conservative, " said Lukasz, a 23-year-old student of cultural anthropology. "An openly gay rabbi is something very controversial. " Others, though, seem comfortable, as evidenced by a recent string of dinners where Jews and non-Jews joined Katz and his partner at their home, digging into goulash or chicken-and- potato meals around the dining room table and socializing through the evening.
Katz is the chief cook — it's because he likes to be in charge, says Gleason, who instead welcomes guests warmly at the door and keeps their wine glasses filled through the evenings. "I think the rabbi's home should be open," Katz said. "The moment that you take a position, your family takes the position too. It's a role." Katz's life as a rabbi has been an evolution from one world to another. In the 1980s and early 1990s he was Sweden's chief Orthodox rabbi, married to a woman with whom he had five children now aged 16 to 31. Later he lived and worked in Berlin and Los Angeles. He had a dark beard, but today is clean-shaven.
The only photograph in their living room shows Katz and Gleason on the day they sealed their partnership — which they refer to as a marriage — surrounded by both their families, including Katz's sons and daughters, who are close to the couple and who showed their acceptance of the union with a gift of a ketubah, a traditional Jewish wedding certificate. Katz's journey away from Orthodox Judaism was part of his "coming out process," he explains, but also was influenced by the realization that some of his children were not attracted to Orthodox worship. He concluded that Reform Judaism was more attractive to the young. Still, he insists that as modern as he is, he loves tradition.
He keeps a kosher home and has enthusiastically embraced the Jewish tradition of matchmaker, using his dinners to introduce singles — usually heterosexuals but not exclusively.
Asked how many marriages have resulted, he said "a couple," but Gleason jumped in to correct him: "You're being modest," he said.
Gleason, 50, was born into a Catholic family but converted to Judaism for Katz. He left Hollywood and now does administrative and fundraising work for the synagogue. He attends services, sitting in the back and tapping on his watch when he feels the rabbi's lively sermons are getting to long. Still, the openness of their relationship can catch people in Warsaw off guard. "I introduce him as my partner they say, 'Oh he's also a rabbi?"' Katz said. "When I say 'my partner' they think I mean like in business. So I say 'no, no, no, we are living together."'
Precedent set for offending homosexuals? thenews.pl 05.08.2009
A court in the north-western city of Szczecin has ruled that offending homosexuals by calling them "fags" should be punished, setting a precedent.
Fourty-four year old Anna S., who called a 25-year-old Ryszard G. a "f*g," will have to formally apologize to him and pay a 15,000 zloty (3,650 euro) fine.
"Everyone has a right to defend their dignity and privacy," said the judge Urszula Chmielewska, explaining the ruling. "Everyone has a right for a normal life in a society regardless of their sexual orientation. The word "f*g" is offensive and it was used to hurt Ryszard G."
Last year, Anna S., while shopping at a grocery store in the western Polish island of Wolin, said "a f*g has gotten himself another f*g" referring to her neighbour Ryszard G. and added: "I saw the fags going to a park to f**k one another."
The court has forbidden the woman to call her neighbour a "f*g" and to publicly comment on his private life and sexual orientation. The courts also ordered the payment of a 15,000 zloty (3,650 euro) fine and to cover the cost of the trial - 4,000 zloty (974 euro). "The defendant has to be punished so that she would change her behaviour and make up for the wrong she did," said the judge.
The woman claimed that she was innocent, all witnesses lied and it was actually her who had been offended by Ryszard G. "He threw tools at me from the window. I'm depressed because of him," said Anna Sz. "15,000 zloty (3,650 euro) is a lot of money for an unemployed person."
Ryszard G. has not decided yet what he will do with the allotted damages as he wants to take a decision together with his family (he lives with his mother, siblings and his partner).
The trial carries no legal weight and Anna S.'s attorney will lodge an appeal.