Conflict & Justice

The Fight for Gay Rights in Poland

Lech_Walesa_-_2009.jpg

Former Polish President, and Solidarity leader, Lech Walesa, in 2009. (Photo: Wiki Commons)

The Catholic Church is hugely popular in Poland, especially among older Poles, from the generation that protested against Communism in the 1980s and supported the Solidarity Movement.

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The leader of that movement was union leader Lech Walesa, who also happens to be a staunch Catholic.

He later served as president of Poland for five years, and he remains a popular icon of Polish democracy.

But Walesa's reputation as a fighter for democratic values has taken a hit in the past few days.

He set off a storm last week, saying in a TV interview that gays didn't belong in parliament.

"This has been debated every day on the news channels, the radio stations, the TV and the newspapers since Walesa made these comments," says the BBC's Warsaw correspondent, Adam Easton.

On Tuesday, Poland's only openly gay Member of Parliament and a transgender colleague occupied the front benches of the Polish parliament in protest.

Easton says the debate reflects broader divides in Polish society between the conservative older generation, and a more liberal younger generation.

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