Turkey among signatories of open letter supporting LGBT rights in legally-restrictive Poland
A record number of foreign ambassadors to Poland - 52 – have signed an open letter of support for LGBT rights in the country, up from 42 last year. They included the ambassadors of the United States, Canada, Britain and Turkey.
Ahead of Pride Week, Poland ranks amongst the lowest in Europe in granting LGBT individuals their freedoms, according to the Annual Rainbow Survey of 2017.
The capitals of Poland and Romania hosted festive gay pride parades that attracted thousands of people on June 9, as emboldened participants vowed to keep pushing for the eventual freedom to marry the person of their choice.
In Poland, the “Equality Parade” festivities got underway at night on June 8, when a temporary art installation shined a rainbow created with water and light for four hours in downtown Warsaw.
A party-like atmosphere prevailed at the parade in Warsaw as people waved rainbow flags and danced, the Associated Press reported. Some had signs and T-shirts with messages of tolerance or sass, including one of Russian President Vladimir Putin holding a rainbow.
The celebratory mood could not be subjugated, even though same-sex marriage has no real chance of being legalized under Poland’s current conservative government.
“The worse the political atmosphere, the better the atmosphere at the parade,” observed Michal Niepielski, 55, a radio technician from Krakow.
Niepielski judged Saturday’s turnout to be bigger than for last year’s parade. He attended the event with his partner of 14 years, Wojtek Piatkowski, who called the high spirits a “backlash” against the Polish government. The couple wore matching rainbow suspenders and bow ties.
A record number of gay pride marches - 12 - are scheduled across predominantly Catholic Poland this season, including in five cities having them for the first time. Some of the new locations are considered conservative strongholds, like Rzeszow and Opole.
“People are fed up with feeling like they are under a boot and being trampled down. And they are reacting, they are organizing, they are resisting,” said Hubert Sobecki, president of Love Does Not Exclude, a group working for the legalization of same-sex marriage in Poland.
The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled on June 5 that two men - one Romanian, the other American - are entitled to the same residency rights as other married couples in the European Union.
While the ruling doesn’t oblige individual EU member countries to legalize same-sex marriages, it could presage rulings in other pending cases that LGBT rights advocates would consider favorable.
Romania, Poland, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Latvia are the EU countries that don’t legally recognize same-sex couples.
Homosexuality was long a taboo in Poland, though views have changed in recent years, with Poles in 2011 making history by electing an openly gay man and a transsexual woman to the national parliament.
A more conservative turn came in 2015, when no left-wing parties made it into parliament and a conservative pro-Catholic party, Law and Justice, swept into power.
Pride marches banned in Turkey since 2015
In Turkey, annual "LGBT Pride Marches have been banned for three years running.
The first LGBT Pride March permitted by the authorities was held in 2003 in Istanbul and was conducted for 13 years until 2015.
Tens of thousands people took part in the march in 2013 and 2014, which made the Istanbul LGBT Pride March one of the biggest in the region.
However in June 2015 police dispersed the march using tear gas and rubber bullets. It was subsequently banned by the Istanbul Governor’s Office in 2016 and 2017, citing security reasons and “public sensitivities.”