A Polish government official referred to queer people as “sodomites” following a Saturday Pride event in the former Soviet nation.
Following the inaugural LGBTQ parade in the west-central city of Poznan, Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak blasted municipal leaders for allowing the procession. In a Sunday interview with the pro-government network TV Trwam, Blaszczak alleged the city was placing “ideology” over the everyday needs of ordinary citizens, such as “sidewalks and sewers.”
The minister further called marchers — who reportedly numbered over 5,000 people — “another parade of sodomites who are trying to impose their own interpretation of civic rights on other people.”
Blaszczak’s comments are just one of several attacks on Pride parades as festivals celebrating the LGBTQ community have proliferated in Poland in recent years. Poznan was just one of at least five cities in the Eastern European country — including Rzeszow and Opole — which held Pride events for the first time in 2018.
Meanwhile, Warsaw’s annual Equality Parade pulled in a record 45,000 attendees in June.
But following that event, government leaders threatened to take action against marchers who hoisted rainbow-colored Polish flags. Internal Affairs Minister Joachim Brudziński claimed that brandishing the national coat of arms — also known as the White Eagle — over a symbol of LGBTQ Pride amounted to “desecration.”
“[C]harges will be pressed for contempt and desecration of the national symbols,” Brudziński alleged on Twitter.
It’s unclear if any charges were brought.
Some blowback to the increasing recognition of LGBTQ people is expected in a nation historically known for social conservatism. Although sodomy has never been formally criminalized in Poland — where the age of consent is 15 for both heterosexual and same-sex partners — police have long targeted queer and trans people under laws banning “gross indecency.”
In a series of opinion polls conducted by the Centre for Public Opinion Research last year, nearly two-thirds of respondents (64 percent) opposed same-sex marriages. Additionally, 84 percent claimed LGBTQ couples should not be permitted to adopt.
Out of 49 countries surveyed in ILGA’s yearly Rainbow Europe index, Poland ranks 38th on LGBTQ rights.
Queer and trans people, though, have continued to weather these challenges by standing their ground. Just days before the Warsaw parade, the capital city replaced a monument that was frequently vandalized by homophobes with an “unbreakable” tribute to the LGBTQ community: a rainbow hologram projected into a water fountain.
Furthermore, this year’s record-breaking number of Pride events indicate LGBTQ people are not only persisting—they are winning. Only a handful of counter-protesters reportedly came out to demonstrate against the dozen parades.