Polish court scraps four ‘LGBT zones’ – Reuters

WARSAW (Reuters) – A top Polish appeals court ruled on Tuesday the abolition of so-called “LGBT zones” in four municipalities, a ruling that activists hailed as a victory for human rights and democracy.

Several local authorities in Poland passed resolutions in 2019 declaring them free of “gay ideology”, part of a struggle in the predominantly Catholic country between liberals and religious conservatives, who see the struggle for gay rights as a threat to traditional values.

LGBT-free zones seek to ban what local authorities see as the promotion of homosexuality and sexual identities of other minorities, especially in schools.

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These moves put Poland on a collision course with the European Commission, which has said these regions may be violating EU law regarding non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

After a legal challenge from Poland’s human rights ombudsman, lower courts ruled to overturn nine such decisions.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Ordu Juris Research Center and the relevant municipalities then appealed these rulings. In the first four cases, appeals were dismissed on Tuesday.

“Today’s decision…a great victory for democracy, human rights and respect for people,” Poland’s Campaign Against Homophobia wrote in a social media post.

Cabinet Minister Michal Wijic, a member of the conservative United Poland party, criticized the ruling.

“If council members decide that they want to support our traditions and our identity, that is their sovereign right. Nobody should limit that,” he told Reuters in a text message.

The ruling comes as the issue of “LGBT-free zones” appears to once again jeopardize EU funding for the Polish municipalities involved.

The Campaign Against Homophobia said last Friday that the EU Commission had introduced a clause in its association agreement with Poland that would prevent municipalities with “LGBT-free zones” from receiving money from the bloc’s 2021-2027 budget.

A source from the European Union confirmed that municipalities that adopt policies that the union considers discriminatory will not receive funding for infrastructure, the environment and some other fields.

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(Reporting by Alain Sharlish and Anna Ludarczak-Simczuk in Warsaw, Jan Struchevsky in Brussels Editing by Gareth Jones

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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