LGBT-free zone

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Voivodeships, powiats, and gminas marked in red had passed anti-LGBT resolutions by 2020 January.[1]

LGBT-free zones (Polish: Strefy wolne od LGBT)[2][3][4][5][6][7] or LGBT ideology-free zones (Polish: Strefy wolne od ideologii LGBT)[8] are municipalities and regions of Poland that have declared themselves unwelcoming of an alleged "LGBT ideology",[9] in order to ban equality marches and other LGBT events.[2][10][11] By June 2020, some 100 municipalities (map)[12] and five voivodeships, encompassing a third of the country, had adopted resolutions which have been characterized as "LGBT-free zones".[13][14] In September 2021, four of the voivodeships withdrew the measures, after the EU threatened to withhold funding.[15][16]

Most of the adopted resolutions were lobbied for by an ultra-conservative[17][18] Catholic organisation, Ordo Iuris.[19][20] While unenforceable and primarily symbolic, the declarations represent an attempt to stigmatize LGBT people.[21][22] The Economist considers the zones "a legally meaningless gimmick with the practical effect of declaring open season on gay people".[23] In a December 2020 report, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights stated that "Far from being merely words on paper, these declarations and charters directly impact the lives of LGBTI people in Poland."[24]

On 18 December 2019, the European Parliament voted, 463 to 107, to condemn the more than 80 such zones in Poland.[2][10][11] In July 2020, the voivodeship administrative courts in Gliwice and Radom ruled that the "LGBT ideology free zones" established by the local authorities in Istebna and Klwów gminas respectively are null and void, stressing that they violate the constitution and are discriminatory against members of the LGBT community living in those counties.[25][26]

Since July 2020, the European Union has denied funding from the Structural Funds and Cohesion Fund to municipalities that have adopted "LGBT-free" declarations, which are in violation of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.[27] Poland is the only member state to have an opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights, which it had signed upon its accession to the EU in 2004. In addition, several European sister cities have frozen their partnerships with the Polish municipalities in question.[28] Due to its violation of European law, including Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union, these zones are considered part of the Polish rule-of-law crisis.[29]


August 2019 protest in support of Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski's statements on LGBT. Sign reads: "away ([down]) with leftist ideological totalitarianism", precz (go away) is also on the crossed-out gay pride flag

In February 2019, Warsaw's liberal mayor Rafał Trzaskowski signed a declaration supporting LGBTQ rights,[22][30] and announced his intention to follow World Health Organization guidelines and integrate LGBT issues into the Warsaw school system sex education curricula.[22] Law and Justice (PiS) politicians objected to the program saying it would sexualize children.[31] PiS party leader Jarosław Kaczyński responded to the declaration, calling LGBT rights "an import" that threatens Poland.[32]

According to The Daily Telegraph, the declaration "enraged and galvanized" conservative politicians and conservative media in Poland, the "LGBT-free zone" declarations emerging as a reaction to the Warsaw declaration. The British newspaper further argues that the conservative establishment is fearful of a liberal transition that may erode the Catholic Church's power in Poland like the transition around the Irish Church. Decreasing Church attendance, rising secularization, and sexual abuse scandals have put pressure on the conservative position.[22]

In May 2019, Polish police arrested civil-rights activist Elżbieta Podleśna for putting up posters of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa with the halo painted rainbow colours for the charge of offending religious sentiment, which is illegal in Poland.[33][34]

Two weeks prior to the 2019 European Parliament election, a documentary on child sex abuse in the Church, was released online.[33] It was expected to hurt the Church-aligned PiS electorally, and was responded to by PiS leader Kaczyński speaking heatedly of the Polish nation and children as "being under attack by deviant foreign ideas", which led conservative voters to rally around PiS.[33] According to feminist scholar Agnieszka Graff, "The attack on LGBT was triggered by the [Warsaw] Declaration, but that was just a welcome excuse", as PiS sought to woo the rural-traditional demographic and needed a scapegoat to replace migrants.[33]

In August 2019, the Archbishop of Kraków, Marek Jędraszewski, said "LGBT ideology" was like a "rainbow plague" in a sermon commemorating the Warsaw uprising.[35][36][37] Not long after, a drag queen simulated Jędraszewski's murder on stage, stirring controversy.[38]

As of 2019, being openly gay in Poland's small towns and rural areas "[takes] increasing physical and mental fortitude" due to the efforts of Polish authorities and the Catholic Church, according to The Daily Telegraph.[22] Public perceptions, however, have been becoming more tolerant of gay people.[22][31] In 2001, the 41 percent of Poles surveyed stating that "being gay wasn't normal and shouldn't be tolerated" dropped to 24 percent in 2017, and the 5 percent who said "being gay was normal" in 2001 had grown to 16 percent in 2017.[31]


LGBT-free zone motions refer to resolutions passed by some of Polish gminas (municipalities),[39][21] powiats (counties),[40] and voivodeships (provinces)[22] who declared themselves free from “LGBT ideology” in reaction to the Warsaw Declaration.[41][42] While unenforceable, activists say the declared zones represent attempts to exclude the LGBT community[21][22] and called the declarations "a statement saying that a specific kind of people is not welcome there."[21]

The two documents declared by municipalities were a "Local Government Charter of The Rights of The Family",[43] and a "Resolution against LGBT ideology". Both of these documents were labelled in media as "declarations of LGBT-free zones",[44] but neither of them actually contain a statement of exclusion of LGBT people from any territory, activities or rights. The "Charter of Family Rights" focuses on family values in social policies and only refers to LGBT rights indirectly, such as by defining marriage as a relationship "between a man and a woman". The "Resolution against LGBT ideology" does not speak to LGBT people, but declares opposition to an "ideology of the LGBT movement" and introducing sex education in line with WHO education standards and condemns political correctness.[45] An interactive map of Poland marking all municipalities which accepted either one or both of these resolutions, with links to their original texts, is available online, under the titles "Atlas of Hate".[46][12]

As of August 2019, around 30 different local governments have accepted such resolutions, including four voivodeships in the south-east of the country:[39][47][48][40] Lesser Poland, Podkarpackie, Świętokrzyskie, and Lublin.[47] The four Voivodeships form the "historically conservative" part of Poland.[21]

As of February 2020, local governments controlling a third of Poland officially declared themselves as "against "LGBT ideology" or passed “pro-family” Charters, pledging to refrain from encouraging tolerance or funding NGOs working for LGBT rights.[49][50]


  1. Lublin Voivodeship,[51] revoked by the voivodeship's authorities on 27 September 2021[52]
  2. Lesser Poland Voivodeship,[9] revoked by the voivodeship's authorities on 27 September 2021[53]
  3. Podkarpackie Voivodeship,[54] revoked by the voivodeship's authorities on 27 September 2021[55]
  4. Świętokrzyskie Voivodeship, revoked by the voivodeship's authorities on 22 September 2021[56]
  5. Łódź Voivodeship[57]



  1. Gromnik (gmina)[91]
  2. Istebna (gmina),[92] revoked by a court ruling
  3. Jordanów (gmina wiejska)[93]
  4. Klwów (gmina),[94] revoked by a court ruling.
  5. Kraśnik,[95] withdrawn by city council in April 2021[96]
  6. Lipinki (gmina)[97]
  7. Łososina Dolna (gmina)[98]
  8. Niebylec (gmina)[99]
  9. Serniki (gmina),[100] revoked by a court ruling.[101][102]
  10. Szerzyny (gmina)[103]
  11. Trzebieszów (gmina)[104]
  12. Tuchów[105] withdrawn by the town council in October 2021[106]
  13. Tuszów Narodowy (gmina)[107]
  14. Urzędów (gmina)[108]
  15. Zakrzówek (gmina)[109]
  16. Skierniewice[110]
  17. Radziechowy-Wieprz, repealed in October 2020 by the voivode of the Silesian Voivodeship, Jarosław Wieczorek [pl][111]

Law and Justice party[edit]

In the run-up to the 2019 Polish parliamentary election the party has focused on countering "LGBT ideology".[39] In 2019, it rebuked the Warsaw mayor's pro-LGBTQ declaration as "an attack on the family and children" and stated that LGBTQ was an "imported" ideology.[22]

After Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski made his speech calling "LGBT ideology" a "rainbow plague", the Minister of National Defence Mariusz Błaszczak applauded the statement.[36]


Gazeta Polska's "LGBT-free zone" stickers
"Hate free zone" stickers distributed by Campaign Against Homophobia

The conservative Gazeta Polska newspaper issued "LGBT-free zone" stickers to readers.[112] The Polish opposition and diplomats, including US ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher, condemned the stickers.[41][113] Gazeta editor in chief Tomasz Sakiewicz replied to the criticism with: "what is happening is the best evidence that LGBT is a totalitarian ideology".[113]

The Warsaw district court ordered that distribution of the stickers should halt pending the resolution of a court case.[114] However Gazeta's editor dismissed the ruling saying it was "fake news" and censorship, and that the paper would continue distributing the stickers.[115] Gazeta continued distribution of the stickers, but modified the decal to read "LGBT Ideology-Free Zone".[114]

In July Polish media chain Empik, the country's largest, refused to stock Gazeta Polska after it issued the stickers.[37] In August 2019, a show organized by the Gazeta Polska Community of America scheduled for October 24 in Carnegie Hall in New York was cancelled after complaints of anti-LGBT ties led to artists pulling out of the show.[116][117]


Marching under a large rainbow flag canopy at 2019 Rzeszów equality march.
Nationalists counter-protesting the Rzeszów equality march, holding the Confederate battle flag

In Rzeszów, after LGBT activists submitted a request to hold an equality march for gay rights in June 2019, PiS councillors drafted a resolution to make Rzeszów an "LGBT-free zone" as well as outlaw the event itself.[33] Some 29 requests for counter-demonstrations reached city hall, which led mayor Tadeusz Ferenc, of the opposition Democratic Left Alliance, to ban the march due to security concerns.[33] When the ban was then overturned by a court ruling,[33] PiS councillors put forward a resolution outlawing "LGBT ideology", which was defeated by two votes.[33]

Following the violent events in the first Białystok equality march[21][118] and the Gazeta Polska stickers a demonstration for tolerance was held in Gdańsk[119] on 23 July 2019, with the slogan "zone free of zones" (Polish: Strefa wolna od stref).[120][121][122] In Szczecin a demonstration under the slogan of "hate-free zone" (Polish: Strefa wolna od nienawiści) took place,[122][123] and in Łódź left-wing politicians handed out "hate-free zone" stickers.[122][124]

Effects on LGBT residents[edit]

According to a December 2020 report by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights:

Far from being merely words on paper, these declarations and charters directly impact the lives of LGBTI people in Poland. The Commissioner has heard testimonies about the chilling effect of these documents on residents and institutions, who are increasingly reluctant to be associated with any activity related to the human rights of LGBTI people for fear of reprisals or loss of funds. The Commissioner was told that some media outlets which have reported on these documents have been targeted by legal action, leading some of them to exercise self-censorship. She has also been told about cases of LGBTI residents being refused services by local businesses (e.g. a pharmacy) or organisations being denied the opportunity to hold LGBTI awareness-raising events. Activists working to denounce such declarations have also been subjected to specious lawsuits filed by local governments or conservative organisations and a smear campaign labelling them as liars for using creative advocacy tools, the clear intention being to intimidate and silence them. The Commissioner has received reports of many LGBTI people being shunned by fellow residents.[24]


Support for declarations[edit]

Bożena Bieryło, a PiS councilwoman in Białystok County, said the legislation in Białystok county was required due to LGBT "provocations" and "demands" for sex education instruction.[41]

The national PiS party has encouraged the local declarations, with a PiS official handing out medals in Lublin to local politicians who supported the declarations.[39]

Criticism of declarations[edit]

In July 2019, Polish Ombudsman Adam Bodnar stated that "the government is increasing homophobic sentiments" with remarks "on the margins of hate speech".[39] Bodnar said he is preparing an appeal to the administrative court against the declarations, as according to Bodnar they are not only political but also have a normative character that affects the lives of people in the declared region.[40][125]

In July 2019, Warsaw city Councillor Marek Szolc and the Polish Society for Anti-Discrimination Law [pl] (PTPA) released a legal opinion stating that LGBT-free zone declarations stigmatize and exclude people, reminding everyone of article 32 of the Constitution of Poland which guarantees equality and lack of discrimination.[42][126][127]

In August 2019, multiple LGBT community members stated that they feel unsafe in Poland.[36] The left-wing Razem party stated: "Remember how the right [were scared] of the so-called [Muslim] no-go zones? Thanks to the same right, we have our own no-go zones."[128][129]

Synagogue in Bydgoszcz, German-occupied Poland, 1939. Nazi banner proclaiming city is judenfrei (free of Jews). This image was tweeted by a representative of Robert Biedroń's party in response to the LGBT-free zones.[130][131]

Liberal politicians and media and human rights activists have compared the declarations to Nazi-era declarations of areas being judenfrei (free of Jews). Left-leaning Italian newspaper la Repubblica called it "a concept that evokes the term 'Judenfrei'".[132][133] Campaign Against Homophobia director Slava Melnyk compared the declarations to "1933, when there were also free zones from a specific group of people."[134] Warsaw's deputy president Paweł Rabiej tweeted, "The German fascists created zones free of Jews. Apartheid, of blacks."[112][131]

In March 2020, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a documentary on the opposition of the LGBT community in Poland against the introduction of LGBT-free zones in the country.[135]

In April 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many within the LGBT community, began handing out rainbow facemasks and other P.P.E. - as a direct protest of the "LGBT-free zoning", within certain local government areas of Poland.[136]

On 17 August 2020, an open letter to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, was published urging the European Union "to take immediate steps in defense of basic European values [...] which have been violated in Poland" and expressing "a deep concern over the future of democracy in Poland". It also appealed to the Polish government to stop targeting sexual minorities as enemies and to withdraw support from organizations promoting homophobia. The signatories of the letter included among others: Pedro Almodóvar, Timothy Garton Ash, Margaret Atwood, John Banville, Judith Butler, John Maxwell Coetzee, Stephen Daldry, Luca Guadagnino, Ed Harris, Agnieszka Holland, Isabelle Huppert, Jan Komasa, Yorgos Lanthimos, Mike Leigh, Paweł Pawlikowski, Volker Schlöndorff, Stellan Skarsgård, Timothy Snyder, Olga Tokarczuk, Adam Zagajewski and Slavoj Žižek.[137][138][139]

In September 2020, the American presidential candidate Joe Biden also condemned LGBT-free zones in Poland via Twitter stating that "LGBTQ+ rights are human rights — and “LGBT-free zones” have no place in the European Union or anywhere in the world".[140]

The Atlas of Hate organization, which keeps track of the anti-LGBT resolutions, was nominated for the Sakharov Prize by 43 MEPs.[141]

As of 2020, the watchdog group ILGA-Europe identified Poland's respect for LGBTI rights as the worst of all 27 EU countries.[142][143]

Reaction from the European Union[edit]

On 18 December 2019, the European Parliament voted (463 to 107) in favour of condemning the more than 80 LGBT-free zones in Poland. Parliament demanded that "Polish authorities (are) to condemn these acts and (are) to revoke all resolutions attacking LGBT rights". According to the EU Parliament the zones are part of "a broader context of attacks against the LGBT community in Poland, which include growing hate speech by public and elected officials and public media, as well as attacks and bans on Pride marches and actions such as 'Rainbow Fridays'.".[2][10][11]

Based upon numerous complaints that "some local governments have adopted discriminatory declarations and resolutions targeting LGBT people", the European Commission wrote to the governors of five VoivodeshipsLublin, Łódź, Lesser Poland, Podkarpackie, and Świętokrzyskie – on 2 June 2020, instructing them to investigate local resolutions proclaiming LGBT-free zones or a "Charter of Family Rights", and whether such resolutions constituted discriminatory actions towards LGBT-identifying people or not.[144] The letter can be seen as an extension of the 2019 vote in the European Parliament condemning the zones, as it notes that failure by Poland to adhere to common values of the European Union of “respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities”, as stated in Article 2 of the 2012 European Union Treaty[145] could result in the loss of EU funds granted to the Republic of Poland in the future, such as European Structural and Investment.[144]

In July 2020, Commissioner Dalli announced that applications for EU-funded town twinnings from six Polish towns had been rejected because of their adoption of "LGBT-free" or "family rights" resolutions.[146]

In her September 2020 State of the European Union speech, Ursula von der Leyen stated, "LGBTQI-free zones are humanity free zones. And they have no place in our Union."[147][148]

In March 2021, on the initiative of the French MEP Pierre Karleskind,[149] the European Parliament declared the entire European Union an "LGBTIQ Freedom Zone" in response to the backsliding of LGBTIQ rights in some EU countries, notably in Poland and in Hungary.[150]

On September 6, 2021 the European Commission sent letters to several Polish regional councils indicating that EU funds will be withdrawn if they do not abandon their LGBT-free zone policy.[151]

The European Commission has blocked 150 million Euro funds for LGBT-free zones, and also blocked a 42 billion Euro payment from the Covid-recovery fund, due to Poland not obeying EU law.[152]

International agreements[edit]

In February 2020, the French commune of Saint-Jean-de-Braye decided to suspend the partnership with the Polish city of Tuchów as a result of the controversial anti-LGBT resolution passed by the Tuchów authorities.[153][154][155] In February 2020, the French commune of Nogent-sur-Oise suspended its partnership with the Polish city of Kraśnik as a reaction to the passing of an anti-LGBT resolution by the city authorities.[156] In February 2020, the French region of Centre-Val de Loire suspended its partnership with the Lesser Poland Voivodeship as a response to the establishment of an "LGBT-free zone" resolution by the voivodeship's authorities.[157][158][159] In May 2020, the German city of Schwerte ended its city partnership with the Polish city of Nowy Sącz after 30 years of cooperation due to the town's adoption of a resolution discriminating against LGBT people.[160] In July 2020, the Dutch city of Nieuwegein as well as the French city of Douai ended their twin city agreements with the Polish city of Puławy due to a "gay free zone" proclamation made in the latter.[161][162] On 12 October 2020, the Irish city of Fermoy ended its twin town agreement with Nowa Dęba after 14 years of cooperation as a reaction to the homophobic LGBT-free zone declaration adopted by the Polish city's authorities.[163] On 13 November 2020, the Belgian municipality of Puurs-Sint-Amands suspended its 20-year-long partnership with the Polish town of Dębica because of the town's adoption of the Charter of The Rights of The Family, which discriminates LGBT people.[164]

In July 2020, the European Commissioner for Justice and Equality Helena Dalli announced that six Polish cities which adopted the "LGBT-free zones" would not be granted EU funds related to financing projects within the EU twinning project framework as a direct consequence of their discriminatory policies directed against members of the LGBT community.[165] The decision met with criticism from the Minister of Justice Zbigniew Ziobro, however, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen defended the decision adding that "Our treaties ensure that every person in Europe is free to be who they are, live where they like, love who they want, and aim as high as they want."[166] However, on 18 August, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro announced that the town of Tuchów in southern Poland would now receive 250,000 zlotys ($67,800) from the ministry's Justice Fund, to compensate for the EU funding reversal.[167]

In September 2020, Ine Marie Eriksen Søreide, the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced that the Polish municipalities which introduced the LGBT-free zones would be denied the EEA and Norway Grants whose aim is the reduction of social and economic disparities in the European Economic Area (EEA). Poland is the biggest beneficiary of these funds and could potentially lose millions of euros of financial aid.[168] The suspension of funds only applies to the government bodies that have themselves adopted resolutions and does not apply to non-governmental organizations that operate in the LGBT-free zones.[169]

In September 2020, a group of MEPs published a letter addressed to the European Olympic Committees (EOC) in which they demanded to respect the rights of LGBTI athletes and expressed an idea to host the 2023 European Games, which had been scheduled to take place in Kraków, in a different location due to the region's LGBT-free zone status.[170][171]

See also[edit]


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  54. ^ "Uchwała Nr VIII/140/19 Sejmiku Województwa Podkarpackiego z dnia 27 maja 2019 r.w sprawie przyjęcia stanowiska Sejmiku Województwa Podkarpackiego wyrażającego sprzeciw wobec promocji i afirmacji ideologii tak zwanych ruchów LGBT (z ang. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender)" (PDF). Sejmiku Województwa Podkarpackiego (in Polish). 27 May 2019. Retrieved 28 January 2020.
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  59. ^ "Uchwała nr VI/10/86/19 Rady Powiatu w Bielsku-Białej z dnia 30 września 2019 r. w sprawie wsparcia dla konstytucyjnego modelu rodziny opartego na tradycyjnych wartościach". Rady Powiatu w Bielsku-Białej (in Polish). 30 September 2019. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
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  62. ^ "Stanowisko Rady Powiatu w Kielcach z dnia 23 sierpnia 2019 r. w sprawie wyrażenia sprzeciwu wobec prób wprowadzania ideologii "LGBT" do lokalnej wspólnoty samorządowej" (PDF). Rady Powiatu w Kielcach (in Polish). 23 August 2019. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
  63. ^ "Deklaracja Rady Powiatu w Kolbuszowej z dnia 22 sierpnia 2019 r. w sprawie powstrzymania ideologii "LGBT" przez wspólnotę samorządową" (PDF). Rady Powiatu w Kolbuszowej (in Polish). 22 August 2019. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
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  68. ^ "Deklaracja Rady Powiatu Lubaczowskiego z dnia 6 czerwca 2019 r. przyjęta podczas obrad X sesji przeciw wdrażaniu ideologii LGBT w życiu społecznym" (PDF). Rady Powiatu Lubaczowskiego (in Polish). 6 June 2019. Retrieved 6 February 2020.
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External links[edit]