Culture & Society News Poland

French town suspends ties with Polish sister city over LGBT rights

Warsaw, Poland – The French town of Saint-Jean-de-Braye has broken its partnership with its Polish sister city of Tuchów last week after the latter adopted resolutions deemed contrary to LGBT rights.

“France is committed to combating human rights violations based on sexual orientation”, stated the French municipality. “We cannot accept that the ties that unite our two cities by a twinning oath be tainted. We condemn the position taken by our twin city of Tuchów”.

Dozens of Polish cities, municipalities and provinces have adopted resolutions that critics say discriminate against LGBT people and calling them self-proclaimed “LGBT-free” as the debate surrounding gay rights in Poland has escalated in recent years. The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has indeed made LGBT rights a key political battleground.

Local authorities in these so-called “LGBT-free” zones have pledged to promote and protect the “traditional family” when it comes to policies, school activities and the distribution of public funds.

The town of Tuchów signed the pledge last May, saying that they wanted to defend themselves against “radicals who attack freedom of speech, childhood innocence, the authority of family and school and the freedom of businesspeople”, reports Pink News.

“Even if we knew that the government party was relaying this homophobia, we were shocked to discover that the city of Tuchów had voted for the resolution, like a large number of municipalities in the south east of Poland”, Deputy mayor Colette Martin-Chabbert told France 3. “We immediately realised the gravity of this position, telling ourselves that history, alas, was repeating itself. We are well placed to know it, in Loiret, with the memory of three internment camps”.

“In Jargeau, there were gypsies and homosexuals. We cannot accept that decisions like these are taken, in defiance of human rights”, she added.

“LGBT-free zone” stickers distributed last year by a Polish conservative newspaper, Gazeta Polska.

The mayor Tuchów, Magdalena Marszalek, blamed the decision by the French community on campaigning ahead of local elections and expressed regret that severing ties will cut friendly relations among residents. She added that many in her community do not identify with the declaration adopted last year by local councilors of Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice party.

But the decision has been widely praised by members of the LGBT community in both France and Poland.

Local activists in France believe this the first time a municipality in the region has taken such a measure, and said they are “delighted” with the decision. “Excluding an entire population from a territory has not been seen for decades. Twinning must also bring values, which cannot be only economic or cultural,” stated a spokesperson for the Gay and Lesbian Action Group of Loiret.

Recent rankings have confirmed that LGBT rights are backsliding in Poland and Central Europe.