Right-wing Polish magazine issues anti-LGBT stickers

Right-wing Polish magazine issues anti-LGBT stickers

A sticker bearing a large black cross over an LGBT+ rainbow motif and reading
A sticker bearing a large black cross over an LGBT+ rainbow motif and reading "This is an LGBT-free zone", s distributed with the latest issue of magazine Gazeta Polska, a news magazine close to Poland's right-wing government

WARSAW - A news magazine close to Poland's right-wing government distributed anti-LGBT stickers with its latest issue on Wednesday, sparking condemnation from the opposition, gay rights activists and even the US ambassador.

LGBT+ rights have become a hot-button issue in the staunchly Catholic EU country ahead of an October general election after Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the powerful leader of the governing Law and Justice (PiS) party, dubbed them a "threat" and put the issue high on his party's campaign agenda.

Kaczynski echoes strong and repeated declarations by Poland's Roman Catholic church against gay rights.

The stickers, which were given out with the magazine Gazeta Polska, are designed with a large black cross over an LGBT+ rainbow motif, captioned "This is an LGBT-free zone".

Poland’s EMPIK bookstores and British-owned BP petrol stations said they would not be selling Wednesday’s edition of Gazeta Polska containing the stickers.

The caption echoes developments at local government level where communities, mostly allied with the PiS, have adopted resolutions declaring themselves "free of LGBT ideology" in the wake of Kaczynski's comments.

"Over the last few months we’ve witnesses a festival of homophobic hate," Cecylia Jakubczak, an activist with the Warsaw based Campaign Against Homophobia rights group, told AFP on Wednesday.

"Words of contempt are coming from governing politicians and representatives of the church and media outlets allied with them like Gazeta Polska," she added, calling the stickers "scandalous" and "dehumanising".

- US ambassador criticised -

The sticker campaign follows weekend violence that marred the first gay pride parade in the eastern Polish city of Bialystok where football hooligans, some with far-right sympathies, attacked marchers and police.

Although PiS Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki condemned the violence he did not speak out against the anti-LGBT campaign.

His education minister, Dariusz Piontkowski, said on Sunday that "it's worth considering whether or not such (gay pride) events should be organised in the future".

Last Friday, the Morawiecki government criticised US Ambassador Georgette Mosbacher for her support for LGBT+ rights after she spoke out against the sticker campaign on Twitter, saying it promoted "hate and intolerance".

PiS government spokesman Piotr Muller termed Mosbacher's statement "unnecessary".

Campaigning on a platform of generous social spending, recent opinion polls show the PiS is on track to win a second consecutive term in the upcoming general election.

Left-wing politicians and the openly gay leader of the Spring party Robert Biedron, who is also an MEP, have announced a "Violence-free zone" protest in Bialystok on Sunday.

- 'LGBT indoctrination' -

The Polish edition of Newsweek is meanwhile distributing "Hate-free zone" stickers featuring a smiling heart in the red-and-white colours of the Polish national flag.

According to a Polish civil rights campaign group around 30 communities, including villages and regional assemblies, have adopted such resolutions.

Poland's Ombudsman Adam Bodnar has signalled he intends to challenge the resolutions in court as being unconstitutional.

Warsaw deputy mayor Pawel Rabiej allied with the main Civic Platform opposition party has filed a criminal complaint with prosecutors against Gazeta Polska over its anti-LGBT stickers.

Polish bishops denounced Swedish furniture giant Ikea earlier this month for what they called "LGBT indoctrination" after an employee was sacked for refusing to take down a homophobic comment he posted on the firm's internal website.

In June, the Constitutional Court ruled in favour of a printer who had refused to fulfil an order from an LGBT organisation.

The court decision has since sparked debate in legal circles as to whether all merchants now have the right to refuse to serve clients because of their religious convictions or for any other reason.

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