LGBT rights in Poland

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LGBT rights in Poland
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Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1932
Gender identity/expression Transsexual persons allowed to change legal gender
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex relationships
Adoption No joint adoption by same-sex couples
Military service Gays and lesbians allowed to serve
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation protection in labor code since 2003 (see below)

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Poland may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal in Poland, but same-sex couples and households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex couples.

Homosexual sex was legalised in 1932 with the introduction of a new penal code. Previous laws prohibiting homosexuality were imposed by the occupying powers after Poland lost its independence during the years 1795-1918. Therefore there was never any anti-homosexual law imposed by the Polish government (excluding homosexual prostitution 1932-1969). At the same time the age of consent was equalized with that of heterosexual partners to 15.[1] Homosexual prostitution was legalized in 1969. Gay people are not banned from military service. Homosexuality was deleted from the list of diseases in 1991. Some left-wing political parties (SLD, UP, SDPL, RACJA PL and others) support the gay rights movement and are in favor of appropriate changes in legislation. Voices of support for such changes can also be heard from some politicians on the right of the political scene in the Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska, currently in power) and Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, opposition). These people include the president of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek,[2] an MP for Lublin, Janusz Palikot,[3] both from PO, and a member of the European Parliament, Michał Kamiński, from PiS.[4] However, both parties (having 82% of the seats in the Parliament), are generally against any new LGBT legislation, and it is very unlikely that this will change before the next parliamentary elections scheduled for 2011.

Recognition of same-sex relationships

There is no legal recognition of same-sex couples. Article 18 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland (1997) defines "marriage" as a union of a man and a woman and places it under the protection and care of the Republic of Poland.[5] In late 2003, Polish Senator Maria Szyszkowska proposed civil unions for same-sex couples, calling for "registered partnerships", similar to the French PACS. On 3 December 2004, the Senate (the upper chamber of the Polish Parliament) adopted the Civil Unions project. The legislation had not passed both houses of the Parliament prior to the 2005 parliamentary election and will almost certainly not be revived by the conservative parties which emerged as the majority following the election.

In 2004, Warsaw's Municipal Transport Authority decision to allow cohabiting partners of gay and lesbian employees to travel free on the city's public transport system was the first case of recognition of same-sex couples in Poland. In 2007, a decision of Chorzów’s City Center of Social Assistance recognized homosexual relationships. The decision declined to concede social assistance to one partner, recognizing that according to law, persons living in a common relationship in the same household are a family, so that the partner is obligated to care for the first one.

The major opposition to introducing same-sex marriages or civil unions comes from the Roman Catholic Church, which is quite active politically and holds a considerable degree of influence in the state, significantly more than in most Western Catholic countries. The nation is 95% Roman Catholic, with 40.4% practicing every week.[6]

Discrimination protections

Anti-discrimination laws were added to the Labour Code in 2003. The Polish Constitution guarantees equality in accordance with law and prohibits discrimination based on "any reason", which also arguably covers sexual orientation, although this has not been tested in the courts. The proposal to include a prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in the constitution in 1995 was rejected, after strong Catholic Church objections.[7]

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.[8]

Social attitudes and public opinion

A 2010 study published in the newspaper Rzeczpospolita (newspaper) revealed that Poles overwhelming oppose gay "marriage" and the adoption of children by gay couples. 79% of Poles opposed gay "marriage," with only 16% in favor. Meanwhile, 93% of Poles opposed the adoption of children by gay couples, with only 5% taking the opposing view.[9] Most Poles also oppose gay parades. A 2008 study revealed that 66% of Poles believe that homosexuals should not have the right to organize public demonstrations, with 27% taking the opposite view. According to the same study, 69% of Poles believe that homosexuals should not have the right to publicly show their lifestyle, with 25% of Poles disagreeing. Meanwhile, Poles are evenly split on the question of sodomy laws. 37% of Poles believe that homosexuals should have the right to engage in sexual activity, with 37% believing they should not.[10]

Living conditions

A survey from 2005 found 89% of the population stating that they considered homosexuality an "unnatural" activity. Additionally, only half believed homosexuality should be tolerated.[11] Acceptance for LGBT people in Polish society increased in the 1990s and early 2000s, mainly amongst younger people and those living in larger cities. There exists a gay scene with clubs all around the country, although again most of them are located in the large urban areas. There are also a number of gay rights organizations, the two biggest ones being Campaign Against Homophobia and Lambda Warszawa. Gay media include several weekly or monthly magazines as well as numerous web portals focused on a broad range of issues, from queer studies to gay dating.

An opinion poll conducted in late 2006 at the request of the European Commission indicated Polish public opinion was generally opposed to same-sex marriage and to adoption by gay couples. The Eurobarometer 66[12] poll found that 74% and 89% of Poles respectively were opposed to same-sex marriage and adoption by gay couples. Of the EU member states surveyed, only Latvia and Greece had higher levels of opposition.[13] According to one gay magazine, Poland is one of the 10 "anti-gay countries in the world", ranking at number eight[14][15][16] (despite the fact that homosexuality is criminalised in over 70 countries around the world, while not in Poland). A poll in July 2009 showed that 87% of Poles were against gay adoption.[17] 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 the government. Further, 9% indicated that they "did not know".[18]

In 2004 and 2005, Warsaw together with other Polish cities, including Kraków, blocked gay pride parades, citing various reasons including the likelihood of counter-demonstrations, or interference with religious or national holidays, or the lack of a permit.[19] Despite this, about 2,500 people marched on June 11, 2005. Ten people were arrested but were released soon afterwards. The parade was condemned by then-Mayor of Warsaw Lech Kaczyński, who said that allowing an official gay pride event in Warsaw would promote a "homosexual lifestyle".[20]

In the second half of the last decade, several Polish celebrities came out as gay, a decision that is widely regarded as helping increase the acceptance of homosexuality in society. These people include actor Jacek Poniedziałek, TV personality Michał Piróg and film critic Tomasz Raczek[21]. The latter has been in a 15-year-long relationship with a writer, Marcin Szczygielski, and the couple received a prestigous award, "Couple of the Year", from the mainstream women's magazine Viva! in 2009.

Attitude of politicians

The parties on the left of the political scene generally approve of the postulates of the gay rights movement and would vote in favour of the new LGBT legislation. Only one of those parties, the Democratic Left Alliance, has MPs in the current parliament and they account for 12% of the Polish Sejm. The other parties, including the Civic Platform which is currently in power, are generally against any changes in legislation; however, some of the more liberal politicians in those parties are described as gay-friendly, among them an MP for Lublin, Janusz Palikot.

The most recent president of Poland was Lech Kaczyński, elected in October 2005, who died in a plane crash on 10 April 2010. His views and opinions repeatedly caused some tension between Poland and gay rights activists in Western Europe. On 17 March 2008 Kaczyński delivered a presidential address to the nation on public television, in which he described gay marriage as an institution contrary to "the widely accepted moral order in Poland" and the moral beliefs of the majority of the population. The video featured a wedding photograph of an Irish gay rights activist, Brendan Fay, and his husband, Tom Moulton.[22] Kaczyński did not have permission to use the picture. The presidential address outraged left-wing political parties and gay rights activists, who subsequently invited the couple to Poland and demanded apologies from the president, which he did not issue. Fay and Moulton took part in a televised conference of the Democratic Left Alliance in the Polish Sejm and were interviewed in a live talk-show on the nationwide channel TVN.

Lech's twin brother, Jarosław Kaczyński, who is the leader of Law and Justice and a former prime minister of Poland, 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.[23] 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.[24]

In March 2007 Roman Giertych proposed a bill that would ban homosexual people from the teaching profession and would also allow sacking those teachers who promote the "culture of homosexual lifestyle". At that time Giertych was a deputy prime minister and a minister of education from a small right-wing and ultra-Catholic party, the League of Polish Families, a coalition partner in the Law and Justice government. The proposition gained a lot of negative attention in the Polish and Western media and was widely condemned by the European Commission[25], 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.[26][27] 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[28]. Giertych retired from politics and returned to his work as an attorney.

Emigration of LGBT persons from Poland

Polish gay rights groups claim that, following Poland's entry into the European Union, thousands of Polish gays have emigrated to Britain, Germany, France, Canada, Australia and the United States. Some Polish gay activists, such as Robert Biedroń, who had originally said that their fellow countrymen left Poland to escape "increasing persecution", later corrected their stance, saying that "questions of morals" are of secondary importance and the main reasons are economic[29]. According to other sources, Biedroń, the president of the Polish Campaign Against Homophobia, said that most of the Polish gays emigrated to the UK not for economic reasons but because of being persecuted in Poland.

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 émigré 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. [30]

Summary table

Homosexuality legal since 1932 Yes
Equal age of consent since 1932 Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in employment since 2003 Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services (bill 2007) No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriage(s) No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays allowed to serve in the military Yes
Right to change legal gender Yes
Access to IVF for lesbians Yes
MSM allowed to donate blood since 2005 Yes

See also


  1. Tatchell (1992), p. 151
  5. The Constitution of the Republic of Poland of 2nd April, 1997 "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."
  6. [1]
  8. Draft Law on Equal Treatment 2007
  11. Pilgrimage will let Pope pray for a country that is turning to intolerance, The Times Online, May 25, 2006
  13. EU Poll Shows Europeans Divided on Homosexual Marriage, but Reject Homosexual Adoptions,, December 22, 2006
  14. Weill-Greenberg, Elizabeth (March 17, 2006). World's worst places to live if you're gay - U.S. allies listed among gay human rights abusers. Southern Voice. Archived from the original on July 11, 2007.
  16. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices in Poland, US Department of State
  17. Poles against gay adoption - :: News from Poland
  19. Townley, Ben (May 20, 2005). Polish capital bans Pride again. Gay,com. Archived from the original on March 13, 2007.
  20. Gay marchers ignore ban in Warsaw, BBC News Online, June 11, 2005
  26. "Polish teachers march in Warsaw", BBC News, 2007-03-17. Retrieved on 2010-05-07. 
  27. "Polish 'anti-gay' bill criticised", BBC News, 2007-03-19. Retrieved on 2010-05-07. 
  28. "Opposition prevails in Polish election", The Daily Telegraph, 2007-10-22. Retrieved on 2010-05-07. 
  29. Polish gays distort facts to convince Europe of their martyrdom, Newsweek Polska
  30. Graham, Colin. "Gay Poles head for UK to escape state crackdown", London: The Observer, July 1, 2007. Retrieved on 2007-07-14. 


Tatchell, Peter. (1992). Europe in the pink: lesbian & gay equality in the new Europe. GMP. ISBN 978-0854491582

External links


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