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Poland: Donald Tusk expresses support for legalizing same-sex unions

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Warsaw, Poland – Donald Tusk, the head of Poland’s largest opposition party Civic Platform (PO), promised legalizing same-sex partnerships would be one of his “first decisions” should he come to power.

The announcement was made last week during a town-hall style event intended for young Poles, where M. Tusk appeared alongside Warsaw mayor Rafal Trzaskowski, Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, as well as the mayors of Budapest and London Gergely Karácsony and Sadiq Khan.

While some followers welcomed Tusk’s clear support for introducing same-sex partnerships in Poland after years of tiptoeing by senior members of the Civic Platform, some LGBT activists lamented the former Polish Prime Minister failed to go far enough and said nothing of same-sex marriages.

The next legislative elections are not due before 2023, but recent political infighting within the ruling coalition has fueled rumours of possible snap elections before that date.

A former PM between 2007-2014, Tusk returned to domestic politics last July after serving a five-year stint as president of the European Council in Brussels. Although some have credited his popularity for energizing the ranks of the main opposition party, Tusk remains a divisive figure in Poland, and it remains to be seen how much of a real threat he can pose to the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party of arch-enemy Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

A previous bill submitted in 2013, when Tusk was Prime Minister, already sought to legalize same-sex unions in Poland, but failed to gather enough support in the lower house of Parliament.

The rights of LGBT people, including of homosexuals, have been at the heart of bitter clashes in Poland, with President Andrzej Duda, top politicians from the conservative ruling coalition and government-friendly media regularly branding it as an evil “ideology” that represent a threat to traditional Polish values.

Local and international rights activists have for years warned of the rise of hate speech towards members of the LGBT community fueled by political scapegoating at the highest level.

While polls have shown a slow but steady rise in tolerance regarding LGBT rights, especially among young people, most surveys indicate that the majority of Poles remain opposed to same-sex marriage – a factor that could explain Tusk’s more cautious approach on the matter.