LGBT rights in Poland

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LGBT rights in Poland
Location of  Poland  (dark green)– in Europe  (light green & dark grey)– in the European Union  (light green)  –  [Legend]
Location of  Poland  (dark green)

– in Europe  (light green & dark grey)
– in the European Union  (light green)  –  [Legend]

Same-sex sexual activity legal? Both male and female never criminalised; legality confirmed in 1932
Gender identity/expression Transsexual persons allowed to change legal gender
Military service Gays and lesbians allowed to serve
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation protection in labor code since 2003 (see below)
Family rights
Recognition of
No recognition of same-sex relationships
Adoption Single LGBT persons can adopt, but same-sex couples are not allowed to at all

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. However, homosexuality was never illegal under Polish law, and Poland was one of the first countries to avoid punishing homosexuality in early modern era. This was formally codified in 1932, and when Poland introduced an equal age of consent for homosexuals and heterosexuals was set at 15.[1][2] Poland is one of few countries where homosexuals are allowed to donate blood however there are incidents of discrimination against gay blood donors.[3]

There was never any anti-homosexual law under a free Polish government (excluding homosexual prostitution 1932–1969). During the Partitions of Poland (1795–1918) laws prohibiting homosexuality were imposed by the occupying powers. Homosexuality was recognized by law in 1932 with the introduction of a new penal code. The age of consent was set to 15, equal to that of heterosexual partners.[4] Homosexual prostitution was legalized in 1969. Gay people are not banned from military service. Homosexuality was deleted from the list of diseases in 1991. Many left-wing political parties (Alliance of the Democratic Left, Labour Union, Social Democracy, Palikot's Movement and others) support the gay rights movement and are in favor of appropriate changes in legislation. Individual voices of support can also be heard from the liberal right in the Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska, currently in power) and Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, opposition). They include the former president of the European Parliament, Jerzy Buzek[5] from PO, Janusz Palikot, MP, Lublin,[6] and Michał Kamiński, MEP, PiS.[7] However, both PO and PiS (the two largest parties), are generally against any new LGBT legislation. In October 2011, Poland elected its first openly gay member of parliament Robert Biedroń, as well as its first transsexual MP, Anna Grodzka.

Recognition of same-sex relationships[edit]

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.[8] In late 2003, Polish Senator Maria Szyszkowska proposed civil unions for same-sex couples, calling for "registered partnerships", similar to the French Pacte civil de solidarité (PACS). On 3 December 2004, the Senate (the upper chamber of the Polish Parliament) adopted the Civil Unions project.

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.

On 23 February 2007, the verdict of the Appeal Court in Białystok recognized same-sex cohabitation (File I ACa 590/06). "The concept of cohabitation (konkubinat) must be understood as stable, actual personal-property bond of two persons. There is a sex meaningless in the recalled aspect. There are no grounds for applying different principles at accounting for the homosexual cohabitation than the ones which are applicable in relation to the heterosexual cohabitation", the court said.[9] On 6 December 2007, it was confirmed by Judgement of The Supreme Court of Warsaw (IV CSK 301/2007and IV CSK 326/2007).[10][11]

At the end of 2010, the Court in Złotów decided that the same-sex partner of a woman who had died was entitled to continue the lease on their communal apartment. The municipality appealed the verdict, but the District Court in Poznań rejected the appeal. Thus, the decision of the Court in Złotów became final. "The court found that these women actually remained in a stable partnership. Any other interpretation would lead to discrimination based on sexual orientation," said president of the District Court in Złotów, Adam Jutrzenka-Trzebiatowski. In support of the judge relied, for the first time, on the European Convention on Human Rights,[12] which had ruled in Kozak v. Poland that gays and lesbians have the right to inherit from their partners.[13] Another similar case about the right to housing of a deceased male partner is pending in the Court in Warsaw.[14] However, in this case the District Court refused to recognise the tenancy law for the partner of the deceased tenant although earlier (2010), the Court in Strasbourg had ruled that this was discrimination. This case will go to a higher court.[15]

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 other Catholic countries. The nation is 95% Roman Catholic, with 40.4% practicing every week.[16]

Adoption and family planning[edit]

Although same-sex couples can't adopt, single LGBT persons can adopt.

Discrimination protections[edit]

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.[17]

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. However, the law was not passed in that form.[18]

On 1 January 2011, a new law on equal treatment has entered into force. However, unlike the previous proposal, it only prohibits sexual orientation discrimination in employment.[19][20]

Social attitudes and public opinion[edit]

A 2010 study published in the newspaper Rzeczpospolita revealed that Poles overwhelmingly oppose gay marriage and the adoption of children by gay couples. 80% of Poles opposed gay marriage, with 16% in favor. Meanwhile, 93% of Poles opposed the adoption of children by gay couples, with 5% taking a favourable view.[21] Some Poles also oppose gay parades - a 2008 study revealed that 66% of Poles believe that gay people 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 gay people should not have the right to be openly gay, with 25% of Poles disagreeing. Also, 37% of Poles believe that gay people should have the right to engage in sexual activity, with 37% believing they should not.[22] In 2011, according to a poll by TNS Polska, 54% of Poles supported same sex partnerships while 27% supported same sex marriage.[23]

Summary conditions[edit]

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.[24] 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.

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[25] 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.[26][27][28] (despite the fact that homosexuality is criminalised in over 70 countries around the world and not in Poland, public opinion is still very anti-gay). A poll in July 2009 showed that 87% of Poles were against gay adoption.[29] 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".[30]

Parada Równości 2006

In 2004 and 2005, Warsaw and 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.[31] Despite this, about 2,500 people marched on 11 June 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".[32]

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.[33] The latter has been in a 15-year-long relationship with a writer, Marcin Szczygielski, and the couple received a prestigious award, "Couple of the Year", from the mainstream women's magazine Gala in 2008.[34]

Attitude of politicians[edit]

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. Palikot's Movement (third largest party in parliament) & Democratic Left Alliance (5th largest party), are strong supporters of gay rights & gay marriage. The two major parties (PO & PiS) are generally against any changes in legislation, although of the two, PiS takes a stronger oppositional stance on gay rights issues. Lech Kaczyński, the president to 2010, harboured views and opinions which repeatedly caused tension between Poland and gay rights activists in other parts of 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 address featured a wedding photograph of an Irish gay rights activist, Brendan Fay, and his husband, Tom Moulton,[35] which Kaczyński had not sought permission to use. 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.

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.[36] 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.[37]

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 media and was widely condemned by the European Commission,[38] 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.[39][40] 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.[41] Giertych retired from politics and returned to his work as an attorney.

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 emigrant 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. [42]

Support for LGBT rights in Poland[edit]

Poles support for gay rights (CBOS poll) 2001[43] 2002[44] 2003[45] 2005[46] 2008[47] 2010[48] 2011[49] 2013[50]
"registered partnerships" - 15% 76% 34% 56% 46% 44% 41% 48% 45% 47% 25% 65% 33% 60%
"same-sex marriages" 24% 69% - - 22% 72% 18% 76% 16% 78% - 26% 68%
"adoption rights" 8% 84% - 8% 84% 6% 90% 6% 90% 6% 89% - 8% 87%
Support for "registered partnerships" (CBOS poll)[51] opposite-sex couples same-sex couples
"registered partnerships" (VI 2011) 83% 10% 25% 65%
"registered partnerships" (II 2013) 85% 11% 33% 60%
Poles support for gay rights (PBS poll) 2013[52]
"registered partnerships" 40% 46%
"same-sex marriages" 30% 56%
"adoption rights" 17% 70%
Poles support for gay rights (TNS OBOP poll) 2011[53]
"registered partnerships" 54% 41%
"same-sex marriages" 27% 68%
"adoption rights" 7% 90%
Support for "registered partnerships" (OBOP poll)[54] opposite-sex couples same-sex couples
"registered partnerships" (III 2013) 67% 34% 47% 53%
Poles support for gay rights (Homo Homini poll) 2013[55]
"registered partnerships" 55% 39%
"same-sex marriages" 27% 69%
"adoption rights" 14% 84%
Support for "registered partnerships" 2012 (CEAPP poll)[56] opposite-sex couples same-sex couples
"registered partnerships" 72% 17% 23% 65%
"right to obtain medical information" 86% - 68% -
"right to inherit" 78% - 57% -
"rights to common tax accounting" 75% - 55% -
"right to inherit the pension of a deceased partner" 75% - 55% -
"right to a refund in vitro treatments" 58% - 20% -
"right to adopt a child" 65% - 16% -

Living conditions[edit]

Same-sex sexual activity legal Yes (since 1932)
Equal age of consent Yes (since 1932)
Anti-discrimination laws in employment only Yes (since 2003)
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Same-sex marriages No
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Step-child adoption by same-sex couples No
Joint adoption by same-sex couples No
Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly in the military yes
Right to change legal gender Yes
MSMs allowed to donate blood Yes

See also[edit]


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  8. ^ 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."
  9. ^ "Sisco It". Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
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  12. ^ Precedensowy wyrok w Złotowie
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  20. ^ "Ustawa o wdrożeniu niektórych przepisów Unii Europejskiej w zakresie równego traktowania" (PDF). Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  21. ^ ""Nie" dla małżeństw gejowskich" (in (Polish)). 23 March 2010. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
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  31. ^ Townley, Ben (20 May 2005). "Polish capital bans Pride again". Gay,com. Archived from the original on 13 March 2007. 
  32. ^ Gay marchers ignore ban in Warsaw, BBC News Online, 11 June 2005
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  36. ^ ">< Artykuł >". < Gaylife.Pl. Retrieved 20 January 2011. 
  37. ^ [1][dead link]
  38. ^ Scott Long Director, LGBT Rights Program (2007-03-19). "Poland: School Censorship Proposal Threatens Basic Rights | Human Rights Watch". Retrieved 2013-11-21. 
  39. ^ "Polish teachers march in Warsaw". BBC News. 17 March 2007. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  40. ^ "Polish 'anti-gay' bill criticised". BBC News. 19 March 2007. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  41. ^ "Opposition prevails in Polish election". The Daily Telegraph (London). 22 October 2007. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 
  42. ^ Graham, Colin (1 July 2007). "Gay Poles head for UK to escape state crackdown". London: The Observer. Retrieved 14 July 2007. 
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  51. ^ Związki partnerskie – za czy przeciw?.
  52. ^ Polski rekord tolerancji: 40 proc. z nas akceptuje związki partnerskie dla homoseksualistów. (9 October 2013). Retrieved 12 October 2013.
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  56. ^ Równe traktowanie standardem dobrego rządzenia. (pages 36–39.


Tatchell, Peter. (1992). Europe in the pink: lesbian & gay equality in the new Europe. GMP. ISBN 978-0-85449-158-2

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