Rainbow flag controversy: Political unrest in Poland over re-election of anti-LGBT President Duda

Amy Langley, Chief International Officer

9 Aug 2020

Rising tensions over the re-election of strongly anti-LGBT Polish President Duda have resulted in political protests by opposition leaders and multiple charges against activists for draping the rainbow flag over historical and religious monuments.

Charges have been levelled against three LGBT activists for hanging flags on monuments in Warsaw. The monuments include the Mermaid of Warsaw statue and one of Jesus bearing a cross in front of the Basilica of the Holy Cross. Poland’s deputy minister of justice Sebastian Kaleta, stated that the activists' flag-draping actions would result in “a firm reaction of our state.” Under Polish law, those charged are threatened with a possible 2-year prison sentence for offending religious beliefs and insulting national monuments.

Parliamentary protests have also followed the re-election of Polish President Andrzej Duda. At the swearing in ceremony in early August, political opposition wore rainbow clothes and masks to protest Duda's second term. As President Duda spoke, those in multicolour dress lifted Polish Constitutions over their head.

Controversy and division between Polish citizens and the heavy anti-LGBT position of the current political state of the country has continued for many years. The President, from the Law and Justice Party, is known for targeting homosexuality and has continually called the LGBT movement a threat to the nation and Roman Catholic values. The rainbow flag, a symbol of gay rights, is now considered an emblem for the opposition, given increasing division down the lines of support for the LGBT movement.

The polarising social and political issue of LGBT rights has even led to outside action. Earlier this year, the EU withheld funding as financial punishment for 6 Polish towns that declared themselves "LGBT free zones".

Robert Winnicki, leader of the ultraconservative National Movement, called the L.G.B.T. movement "the rainbow plague" whilst comparing it to Nazi and communist ideology. He also commented that "every plague passes at some point".

On the other side of the divide, representative of the Polish group 'Campaign Against Homophobia', Justyna Nakielska, called the charges against activists "an attempt to intimidate and a clear message to the L.G.B.T. community". Polish gay rights activists have also published a manifesto entitled "Stop the Nonsense".

Read the manifesto on this Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/johnBoBsophieArt/posts/1466786200191531.

For information about the denial of EU funds, check out this link: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/30/world/europe/LGBT-free-poland-EU-funds.html. See this article for commentary on the election: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/14/world/europe/poland-election-court-challenge.html.